Marabella fears floods after drain neglected for 8 years

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Harrynarine Jerrybandan, 81, says the Ministry of Works and Transport hasn’t cleaned the river next to his home in Mootoo Street, Marabella, since 2016. He showed the river to Newsday on May 27 as he raised concerns of flooding ahead of the rainy season and called on the authorities to clean the river before it’s too late. – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

WITH this year’s hurricane season expected to be harsh, residents of part of Marabella, San Fernando, are worried about their fate, as they say a nearby drain has not been cleaned since 2016.

Shobha Jerrybandhan, 54, runs a chiropractic clinic from her home at Mootoo Street, Marabella, after taking it over from her father Harrynarine, 81, who built the practice over almost 40 years.

The home and business are next to an estimated 15-by ten-foot channel that flows into the Gulf of Paria. The section of the drain near her community is filled with overgrown grass, has fallen trees hanging into it and even a large deposit of land constricting one of its meanders. The river is spanned by access bridges for residents living on hilly land behind it.

The family has paid someone to clean the part of the drain closest to their home, but over the last two rainy seasons, Jerrybandhan said, flash floods at least four feet deep have cost the family over $20,000. Thy lost furniture and clothes and their vehicles and appliances were damaged.

Apart from losses in her home, she said equipment at her practice is often compromised. Additionally, she said, she cannot open her business for about a week each time it floods because she has to clean the space and her home.

Adding to her predicament is that she often has to do everything on her own because her parents are too old and her younger brother is disabled.

Videos and photos sent to Newsday showed residents walking in almost waist-high water during recent floods.

Jerrybandan’s family and other members of the community blame the authorities’ failure to maintain and clean the drain over the last eight years.

She now wonders what their fate will be during this year’s rainy season, which is expected to be exceptionally active.

“It is scary. It is frustrating. It is exhausting every day now in anticipation of what is what is going to happen…if they don’t clean it.”

Her father said the area has always been plagued by flooding, but that was significantly reduced when the drain was constructed, under the Basdeo Panday administration, over 20 years ago.

Jerrybandhan’s neighbour Everald Ramberan, 75, feels the same. Living in the area for 68 years, he believes developments upstream over the years have forced more water down the channel, compounding the problem.

Jerrybandhan and her neighbours believe cleaning the drain would significantly reduce the severity of flooding in the area. She based this conclusion on the fact that there was no major flooding while it was clean.

“Even if the water comes up, it will come up like maybe here on the floor a little bit, and wash up, right, and wash down.”

She said the drain even stood up to the torrential rains across southern Trinidad during the passage of Tropical Storm Bret in 2017.

She said she has since been trying to get the relevant authorities to rectify the situation, but despite numerous calls and site visits nothing has been done.

Marabella West councillor John Michael Alibocus told Newsday his efforts to raise the matter at council have been fruitless.

“I have brought it up in council eight times…and I’ve got a response that the Ministry of Works has no money when coming to cleaning the drains.

“I would like for the Ministry of Works (and its minister) Rohan Sinanan to pay some special attention to this particular drain and all the Bayshore mouths. All the mouths of the drains at the Bayshore area are clogged. The Marabella River is one of all the mouths of the Bayshore drains,” he said.

Newsday was unable to get a comment from Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan up to press time.