Never-ending flood problem
It appears that flooding is a problem which will take many more decades to fix, if it ever is. For more than half-a-century now, every administration has had cogent plans to alleviate flooding in various parts of the country, including the capital city of Port of Spain. None has made a serious dent in the problem anywhere in Trinidad and Tobago. Indeed, in some communities, flooding has worsened, while others which never experienced floods now become inundated after a few hours of steady rain.
This is not because the amount of rainfall has increased over the past 50 years, or even the past hundred. New flood-prone areas are being created mainly because of unregulated construction. A promise to treat with this issue, made by former works minister Colm Imbert, never got started. And, as population density increases in built-up areas, people themselves contribute to flooding woes by throwing garbage into drains, rivers and grassy areas. Everything from fast-food boxes to old tyres is swept into water-courses, which helps choke them as soon as heavy rains come. Anti-litter campaigns appear to have had little impact on the messy and myopic minds of such individuals.
Now it is entirely possible that this is an unsolvable engineering problem, although no government has ever said so. It may be that certain parts of T&T will always flood once there is a certain volume of rainfall within a certain time period. Or it may be that, even if engineering solutions exist, they may be too expensive to implement — a possibility which, again, no government would want to admit. Or it could be that economic engineering solutions do exist, but partisan politics gets in the way of implementation.
This last point was demonstrated even in the most recent incident, where large parts of East Trinidad were inundated. Mr Imbert attempted to hang the present Works Minister, Jack Warner, on the petard of his own promises to stop flooding. Mr Warner himself boasted that there were no floods in areas where his Ministry had carried out remedial works, such as Barrackpore, Oropouche and Couva. This was disingenuous, however, since the rainfall was concentrated in the eastern part of Trinidad.
This blame game is likely to continue, no matter which party occupies office. So what can be done? If flooding will not be reduced in the near future, then the authorities should concentrate on the aftermath of these inevitable acts of nature. There appears to be some progress on the response front, and perhaps the Government should pay more attention to streamlining the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and training the front-line personnel from the Defence Force. That, at least, may alleviate citizens' inconvenience and suffering.