increased severity of flooding in flood-prone areas and the
incidence of it in locations not known to be susceptible must
serve as a wake-up call to review our physical development
strategies. That is if we want to reduce the inconvenience
There is no doubt that the weather patterns are changing.
But whether it is due to natural cyclic variability or global
warming, one thing is clear. The drainage systems need to
Rivers serve as the natural and main channels for carrying
rain water to the sea. Thus, they must be connected to the
runoff systems of housing, commercial and industrial developments.
This, however, is not the case in many instances.
A casual inspection of new and established settlements would
reveal that little or no attention is given to the issue of
runoff water. It is as if the water will find its own course
and will magically evaporate into thin air, in an attitude
of benign consciousness.
In many established villages, the drainage system is totally
inadequate where it does in fact exist. In these places, it
is as if an integrated infrastructure strategy has evolved.
The roadways double-up as the drains. The resultant damage
to already poor roads only serves to exacerbate the grief
of commuters and users.
Poor and or inadequate/non-existent drainage also constitutes
a significant health risk and hence it would be appropriate
to embark upon an islandwide programme to rectify the defects
in the drainage systems.
This programme must include the building of proper and adequate
drains for the various villages and housing settlements, new
and existing. Particular attention must be paid to the low-lying
areas in South and Central Trinidad. Many of them evolved
from informal living quarters in the sugar estates, without
the benefit of formal planning.
The majority of the drains, if they can be called such, are
really capable of carrying only an insignificant flow and
furthermore are of the dirt variety.
One possible method to accelerate the building and construction
programme, especially for the smaller villages in which the
houses straddle the main road, might be to provide materials
for the home-owners to dig and construct brick-lined drains
to given specifications and under nominal supervision.
This can serve as a fillip to activate and develop community
spirit, so sadly lacking in the country.
Simultaneously, a programme to interconnect these village
drains to the larger drainage network must also be implemented.
To accommodate the effects of faster runoff due to the increasing
amount of paved areas and unpredictability of the intensity
of the rainfall, there is a definite need to construct holding
ponds at strategic locations.
They are in use in several countries worldwide with low-lying
areas, including Florida. They provide a practical and cost-effective
solution. Additional advantage can be derived as they can
be used for recreational activities and agriculture.
It is really a singular source of mystery that despite being
proposed over the years, no serious attempt has been made
to implement these hydraulic buffer reservoirs.
The mitigation of the flooding problem in Central Trinidad
must involve, at some stage, a serious examination of the
capacity of the cylinders used to channel the flow of the
several rivers under the Solomon Hochoy Highway.
Whilst one hears, regularly, about plans to dredge upstream
and, occasionally, downstream, simple flow dynamics will reveal
that neither will impact much if the cylinders are inadequate
to handle the volume flow. It is indeed passing strange that
no mention is made of this.
To date, no comprehensive national plan for the mitigation
of flooding has been on offer, despite the increasing severity
of the problem. Several stopgap measures and ad-hoc programmes
are started at periodic intervals. This is a reflection of
our lack of maturity as a people and a country.
Consider the Dutch who have not only implemented an effective
system of dykes but have also exported it to other countries,
including our South American neighbour. South Florida was
a huge swamp. Look at the developments there!
The peoples of developed countries have the capacity and capability
to not only build impressive high-rise buildings but also
to engage in public works to mitigate the devastating effects
of nature. This requires comprehensive analysis, effective
planning and consistent implementation. In other words, the
ability to solve the problems facing the citizenry.
Can we honestly say that we possess such focus and follow-through?
I think not. We seem to suffer from a collective attention
deficit syndrome. We temporarily focus, in a monkey-like fashion,
on an endless sequence of cyclic issues. Never spending enough
time, effort and energy on any one.
The national psyche is a fickle one. The staying power, a
few days at most. No wonder then we continue to be plagued
by the same problems on an annual basis.
To become a first world country, we need to undergo a metamorphosis.
It starts with every individual. A commitment to assume responsibility
for ones progress, intolerance for incompetence, an
insistence on value for money, diligence to duty and vigilance
to issues of governance. All first rate and first world qualities.
First world countries are constituted of first world systems,
peopled by those with first world attributes.
Prakash Persad is Chairman of Swaha Inc