You are here
The issue of flooding
The hurricane season officially began on June 1 and, along with its commencement, are the growing fears of flooding events throughout various parts of the country. In this regard, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) kindly contributed this article, which treats with the causes, impacts and the various mitigation measures that one could employ to help reduce the adverse effects of flooding. In order to have a better understanding of the causes of flooding, one must first try to understand the natural process that occurs when rain falls.
The water produced by rain is either absorbed by the soil in a process known as infiltration or it flows over the land and enters existing waterways, be it natural like rivers and streams, or man-made, such as drains. The water which takes the latter route is termed surface run-off. It is the accumulation of this surface run-off in low lying areas or in areas where drainage is limited or unable to accommodate this runoff that generates flooding. Flooding can also occur when a river overflows its banks due to its water holding capacity becoming overwhelmed.
It is important to note that flooding can result from natural circumstances; traditionally occurring after heavy and/or prolonged rainfall and in areas of flat relief. However, it has been man’s activities and the environmental degradation that have played the biggest part in increasing both the frequency and severity of flooding nationally. These activities have caused flooding in areas which never previously experienced flooding and have added to the despair of the flood victims.
Activities that induce flooding
Some of man’s activities that are known to induce flooding are:
1. Deforestation: Deforestation refers to the removal of naturally occurring vegetation from land either through the methods of burning or the cutting down of trees.
2. Poor land use practices: This involves poor farming practices such as slash and burn agriculture, over cultivation and over grazing.
3. Quarrying: This is the clearing of land for the removal of aggregates (mainly sand and gravel) to be utilised in the construction industry.
4. Urbanisation: This is increased construction of both private and public housing developments as well as commercial buildings.
5. Improper waste disposal: Every bit of carelessly discarded waste can accumulate in drains compromising its ability to effectively transport surface runoff out of populated areas.
There are many people in T&T who have experienced the adverse effects of flooding. Flooding is the most commonly occurring hazard in this country, and it has devastating effects, the worst of which includes the loss of human life. The following are some of the devastating consequences that could be incurred due to forceful floodwaters:
1. Loss of human life.
2. Loss of livestock and agricultural crops.
3. Damage to property and infrastructure.
4. Health issues.
There is absolutely nothing that we can do to fully prevent flooding from taking place.
However, we can put measures in place that would reduce the impacts that this natural event has on us, such as:
This involves the replanting of trees and vegetation in areas that lack forest cover. This helps to stabilise soil, prevent soil erosion and increase soil infiltration.
Regular cleaning and maintenance of drains
This activity would ensure the optimisation and effectiveness of drainage processes.
Dredging/de-silting of rivers
In this process, the excess buildup of soil sediments and other materials are removed by the deepening of the riverbed and river channel so that the river can hold more water.
Proper land use planning
Get proper planning guidance before constructing any types of buildings. This is importance as new developments could put a strain on already existing drainage systems. If precautions are not employed, the natural flow of the river channel could be unintentionally diverted, resulting in flooding in areas that were not traditionally affected by flooding.
Cease irresponsible dumping of unwanted and waste material
The repercussions of indulging in littering in both a small scale (throwing a styrofoam box at the side of the road) or on a large scale (dumping unwanted appliances, such as refrigerators and other forms of white waste into rivers) cause severe flooding events.
Areas in Trinidad that are traditionally vulnerable to the negative implications of flooding include: Kelly Village, Caparo, Longdenville, St Helena, Penal, Erin, Claxton Bay, Oropouche, Siparia, Belmont, Port of Spain, Diego Martin, Maraval, Sangre Grande, Plum Mitan, Santa Cruz, St Helena Village and Cantaro.
It is important to note that in cases of very heavy or prolonged rainfall, landslides can also occur. Therefore, if you live in an area that has been traditionally susceptible to landslides, the ODPM advises you to take extra precautionary measures against this other type of hazard.
There are certain precautionary measures that one can perform to help reduce losses, especially if you live in any of the aforementioned flood prone regions on the island.
Here are some tips:
• Children should be educated regarding the risks involved in playing in flood waters.
• Have an emergency plan for one’s family or business, so it is known beforehand what to do.
• One should always secure and store all important documents, such as birth certificates and passports, in a water-proof bag or sealed container.
• When constructing homes in flood prone areas, build your home on stilts and place any valuable appliances and furniture at an elevated height.
• Do not build or extend your homes or business too close to rivers, ravines and drains, this would compromise the river’s or drain’s ability to allow rain water to flow out to sea. Also, the banks of rivers move over time, so we need to leave some space for these changes to occur.
• Try to park vehicles in an area that would not flood.
• Secure pets on higher ground.
• Ensure that your family has an emergency kit that is stocked with the appropriate items.
Lastly here are some safety tips that should be heeded during and after a flooding event:
1. Listen to weather bulletins for updates.
2. Do not drive through flood waters.
3. Do not seek shelter under culverts or bridges.
4. Avoid moving water at all costs and do not walk through flood waters even if it seems to be stagnant.
5. Check homes for damages incurred during a flooding event and try to repair as soon as possible.
6. After a flooding event, make sure to clear all debris from drains and channels near your home.
In the event that you find yourself being affected by flooding, you can call the designated regional corporation for your area or the ODPM at 800-ODPM.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.