Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Sammy: Flood relief for Diego can take years
Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation Anthony Sammy yesterday warned ministerial officials that getting floods under control could take years and that the process had to start now.
Flanked by Venezuelan hydraulic engineers, geologists and flood specialists who had flown in at their own expense to carry out an assessment of the situation in the hills and rivers around Diego Martin, Sammy repeatedly called for a master drainage plan to be put in place and said he was “certain that Diego Martin would get financial support” from the Government to implement the necessary preparations for future flooding.
In response to three consecutive years of heavy rainy-season flooding, which has left houses under five feet of water at times and made some question whether they should move out of the area, Sammy has called in outside help—free of charge—from Venezuelan flood technicians with experience in dealing with the effects of heavy rains.
Sammy and his colleague Jerry David, of the Disaster Management Unit, recently visited Chacao, Venezuela, to look at how they had prevented hill flooding from inundating lower ground, causing soil erosion and landslides. They also visited Montpellier in southern France to view their early flood-warning systems.
Yesterday, at a conference at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) in Trincity, he said civil engineer Hector Castillo and Jose Arezmendi, professor at the Central University of Venezuela, were taken on Wednesday by helicopter to look at what was happening in the Diego Martin hills where the flooding begins. He said light vegetation had begun to grow again but the soil was still susceptible to movement.
They then went on a tour of the local area by foot. On Thursday they toured the local water courses, he said.
Sammy addressed officials of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Ministry of Local Government, Town and Country Planning Division, UWI, the Geological Society and the ODPM, explaining the issues involved—littering of rivers, building on high ground and riverbanks, blocked and undersized tributary drains and the lack of mitigation. Every US$1 spent on mitigation, he said, quoting American research into flood emergencies, saves US$7 in damage.
The plan for the area will take three months to complete, with the Venezuelan contingent remaining in the area for five days initially and returning intermittently, Sammy said. Asked for a ballpark figure for completing the plan, Sammy said it was too early to estimate.
What Sammy has achieved so far:
• Ban on building above 200-foot contour level on Diego Martin Hills
• Applied for the area above 200 feet to be designated national park to protect area
• Brought in help from Venezuelan flood engineering experts
Measures the Venezuelan engineers will undertake:
• Visit all areas and engage in direct contact with local residents to hear concerns
• Prevent sediment reaching main drains
• Water transportation in canals
• Study of ravines and soil erosion
• “Scars” located close to bridges
• Plan of the expected rains over the north-west of Trinidad
• Deeper study of drain structure
• Slow down water flow from heavy rainfall
• Tackle flooding problem at river sources high in hills
• Possibility of installing an early warning system
• Implement low-cost strategies
• Install retention dams and bamboo filtering
• Create a hydraulic map of the Diego Martin area
• Demonstration presentation of a flooding/heavy rainfall scenario
What Amery Browne, MP for Diego Martin Central, called for in Parliament:
• Correction of wrongly-angled flood drains
• Systematic approach to maintaining water courses, drains and infrastructure
• Regular cleaning and clearing
• Strategic examination of Diego Martin River capacity
• Deepening and widening of the river
• Straightening of the river north of Diamond Vale, near Surprise Grounds, where it bends sharply
• Acquisition of properties built without permission along riverbank
• Exacerbation of water flow dynamics
• Alarm system in the valley to warn residents who might be asleep during flooding
• Better utilisation of litter wardens
• Charges and heavier penalties for people dumping waste in rivers
• Installation of CCTV cameras to monitor water levels
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