Friday, February 23, 2018

Ganga blames city cleaners for flooding

PORT of Spain City Corporation workers responsible for cleaning the capital have been pushing garbage collected from the city’s streets into its underground drains.

Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh yester­day blamed this practice of disposing garbage in Port of Spain for the incidents of flooding experienced in the capital city over the last few weeks.

Singh made the statement during yesterday’s post-Cabinet news briefing at the Office of the Prime Minis­ter in St Clair.

He said a US$120 milli­on loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which would see a significant scope of drainage works in the low-lying area of South Quay in downtown Port of Spain, in addition to the removal of silt and debris at the “cove” in Sea Lots, would help alleviate the perennial problem of flooding in the capital city.

“Drainage in the capital is the responsibility of the Port of Spain City Corporation,” Singh said.

Singh said his ministry however had been collabora­ting with the Port of Spain City Corporation, with a view to alleviating the flooding woes experienced in the capital.

“Last year, we put a series of grates in all the water inlets, however, there is a practice at the city corporation by the cleaning...the janitorial crew, that they take the rubbish from the streets and they push them down those inlets and, therefore, the underground drains are generally clogged,” Singh said.

“We had a meeting with the mayor, the city engineer, and we showed them graphically what happened and not withstanding that...that was with mayor (Louis) Lee Sing, notwithstanding that, some persons removed those grates and, therefore, you have this outcome,” he said. 

Raymond Tim Kee replaced Lee Sing as Port of Spain mayor last November.

“Recently, we had a meeting with Mayor Tim Kee and the city engineer,

and we showed them what was hap­pening with that practice; now, we have SWMCOL (Solid Waste Man­agement Company ) into the picture and SWMCOL is now collaborating with the Port of Spain City Corporation, with a view to chan­ging that practice of taking the rubbish from the street and sending it into the underground drains; that is a real challenge we have,” Singh said.

Singh said a “significant” amount of garbage was cleared from the underground drains last week.

“The drains are underground, they are clogged up and that is why with every bit of rainfall you have that flooding taking place in the low-lying part of Port of Spain. Our job is to find a solution and that solution can only be found through co-operation and collaboration with the city corporation, with SWMCOL, the Drainage department and the ministry,” he said.

Singh said Cabinet yesterday agreed to the approach for the design-bid-build for component one— which consists of infrastructural works—of the IDB loan, which aims to alleviate flooding and enhance drainage in the Port of Spain central business district.

He said the initial focus will be the South Quay area. 

“What you have are several components of this loan, and the scope of works required in component one targets the South Quay area and it is going to be an integrated approach, but this is the South Quay area which is the lowest lying part of Port of Spain and which, by virtue of the history you have...the water accumulates at that level,” he said.

Singh said Cabinet also approved work to be done at the cove in Sea Lots.

“This area is at present very unsightly, has a heavy accumulation of silt and debris and is an eyesore, particularly at low tide,” he said.

Singh said the work proposed at the cove located in the vicinity of the Port of Spain Lighthouse consists of removal of the accumulated sludge through desilting, stone protection using blue limestone boulders, and landscaping of the area using suitable plant species.

“When we clear the cove, it will also assist in flood alleviation because when you look at it at high tide, you can see the lines where the drainage from across South Quay comes into the cove so that the removal of silt from that area will also assist,” he said.

Singh said he expects things will be put in place for work to be done in that area by next dry season.

“The request for prequalification goes out the first week of September, then contractors and consultants would be prequalified and then you will have a request for proposals from those contractors, “ he said.

“The timeline, I hope, will be by the end of December for those things, in order to utilise the dry season in January. That is my objective,” Singh said.