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MOWT and Penal Corp in blame game over flooding

Works Minister Rohan Sinanan and chairman of the Penal Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC) Dr Allen Sammy are currently involved in a tit-for-tat over who is to be blamed for the severe flooding, which occurred in the Penal/Debe area Sunday into Monday.

Sammy said the Ministry of Works must take some responsibility for the flooding, but Sinanan claims that the corporation has undermined the work of the ministry.

Incessant rains made rivers rise to their maximum levels in the areas in the PDRC region, flooding homes and businesses and making roads impassable.

Sammy said over a 26-day period between May and April, the PDRC removed over 600 pounds of solid waste out of watercourses and homes. He said the ministry’s Drainage Division was at fault.

“The problem is not with us, the problem is with the major watercourses, which have not been properly cleaned.

“What they did was spot-clean, just like they do with the roads. They clean where it is highly visible to the public. So it is not comprehensive cleaning.”

In a release, the ministry (MOWT) expressed concern over Sammy’s statement, saying it wanted to “provide clarity and directly address the irresponsible, inaccurate and highly biased sentiments.”

The ministry said through the Drainage Division, it has been actively implementing its strategic drainage plan in preparation for the rainy season.

In recognition of the ecological significance of watercourses, it said, the division has embarked on an ambitious programme encompassing over 524 projects, as well as year-round desilting.

It also said, “While the MOWT takes its responsibilities seriously, it is crucial to emphasise the need for a collaborative approach to flood mitigation.

“All communities in Trinidad, including the PDRC, have a vital role to play in addressing this issue.”

It said under the Municipal Corporations Act, regional corporations can enforce laws on waste disposal and approved building. They also have jurisdiction over municipal police and litter wardens, and can make sure practices that exacerbate flooding are managed or halted, it said.

The ministry also said Sammy was “well aware” that despite its ongoing work, “several matters under his purview, which have been left unaddressed,” continued to affect flooding in the area.

“Despite the works undertaken by the Drainage Division, these issues that fall under the remit of the regional corporation continue to undermine the efforts of the ministry,” it charged.

But the ministry also said it would continue to work with the corporation “and provide the necessary support to address issues contributing to community flooding.”

However, it added, “During trying situations such as this one, the focus should be placed on providing relief to the affected residents, not spreading political propaganda.”