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Nidco to probe highway flooding

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

After scores of Debe residents spent Christmas Day cleaning their flooded homes, Works and Infrastructure Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan has instructed the company overseeing the $7.2 billion Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to determine if the project was responsible. That came the day after Highway Reroute Movement (HRM) leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh blamed Brazilian contractor, Construtora OAS, for blocking the watercourse which left several areas along the highway under water.



In an interview yesterday, Rambachan said the National Insurance Development Company Ltd (Nidco) was on top of the matter and he was awaiting the findings from its consultants. “We have very competent consultants on our jobs who will be giving us their opinions on these matters. “I have asked Nidco to tell me what is happening there and to get an opinion to me. I am onto these matters and we will take a look at all matters raised by citizens because we cannot ignore the voices of citizens,” Rambachan said.


He declined to respond to the HRM’s claim that work at the Debe interchange caused the flood, saying he would refrain from commenting on the highway while Government and the HRM were embroiled in a court battle over the highway. He added: “Dr Kublalsingh is entitled to his own opinions. Kublalsingh’s opinion is not the only valid opinion. There are other opinions that are valid and we are going to be looking at all those opinions. Whatever action is appropriate, such action will be taken.


“The Government never acts to the disfavour of the citizens. The Government always acts in relation to satisfy its clients and the main client is the citizens.” When the T&T Guardian news team visited affected residents at Debe Trace yesterday, many of them complained that the flooding spoiled their Christmas holidays. There was no agreement on what caused the flooding but all agreed further assessments should be done to ensure the highway would not create further flooding.


Recalling Christmas Day, mother of two Marlene Mungal said her family was about to leave home to visit an uncle when flood waters surrounded their house. In the end, she said, she and her husband spent the afternoon with a pitchfork and shovel, digging drains to prevent water from entering their home. “I can’t say what caused it but the only thing I know is that it could be the blocking of the river. “Two or three years ago we used to get floods with water coming inside. 


“I don’t want that to happen again but seeing how water had come up on Christmas Day, it looks like it is going to happen again,” Mungal said. Her neighbour, Suruj Siew, was also stranded inside his home with his wife and four children as the water level had reached over three feet deep in his yard. “This is the biggest flood we had here for the longest while. I don’t know what is the cause of it but it was just terrible,” Siew said.


Showing stains on a wall left by the floods, he said: “Somehow we got out the water but I don’t know what will be coming next. “It did not come into my house but my house was like an island because it’s high up. Around my house there was three feet or even more water because there was a lot of rain.” He too was not sure what caused the floods but remembered that excavators were doing work near the river in Gandhi Village.


On whether the highway would bring excessive flooding to the area, he said once proper drainage was built, he did not see a problem. Across the road, 74-year-old Leelawattee Harripersad said the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation simply had to fix the drain and clean it more often. She said while the highway work could have caused flooding in some areas, she did not believe it caused the floods in Debe.


HRM member Elizabeth Rambharose, who lives in the area, said a hydrology report should be done before work continued on the Debe to Mon Desir leg of the highway. She said many residents were concerned about the danger posed by that segment of the highway but were afraid to speak out. “I personally think that this flooding is because of the construction of the highway. Since that construction started, the flooding has increased and as you see the drains are clear right now. 


“There are no blockages and if some rain comes automatically the flooding will rise. “I think a proper hydro report needs to be done in this area before any construction takes place,” Rambharose added.


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