As this Issue #3 focuses on Flooding and Road Infrastructure, The Checklist. highlights two (2) very innovative projects driven by two (2) Opposition Members of Parliament. We also spoke to other Opposition MPs about the road neglect within their constituencies.
The roads of Caroni Central are in a deplorable condition. The maintenance of many of these roads, in fact, lies under the purview of The Ministry of Works and Transport. However, this issue has not been addressed by them for quite some time, according to MP Arnold Ram.
The Constituency suffers from evident rural neglect. Thus, there is little to no funding and resources being directed to the Constituency by the Ministry. The result of this is evident.
In addition to neglect by the Ministry of Works, is the lack of funding provided to the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation (CTTRC) from Central Government. As willing as the Corporation is to assist with the fixing of the roads, the reduced funding from Central Government poses a serious challenge. This translates to reduced resources, including reduced material and labour.
Accordingly, the burden then lies on the Corporation to assess which is the “worst of the worst roads” and give those priority. This proves to be a difficult task. Residents who may not understand the financial limitations that exist do feel a sense of neglect and disappointment. This is only understandable.
The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) also plays a major role in the destruction of road integrity within the Caroni Central Constituency due to their indiscriminate digging of the roads.
Of course, it is publicly known that WASA has a history of failing to do proper road restoration work subsequent to the damaging of the road’s surface.
Despite the number of prevailing challenges, it was quite commendable to see MP Arnold Ram and his constituency staff launching their ‘DIY Project– Fix Your Roads’ in August 2020, with the slogan being: “Do it Ourselves because the Government won’t do it for Us”. This came as a result of numerous unanswered requests and pleas made to the Ministry of Works and Transport to assist the Constituency of Caroni Central.
The DIY projects allow the MP to engage the Councillors within his Constituency and collaboratively host community meetings at various checkpoints within Caroni Central, to determine a way to bring relief to the affected residents.
The MP encourages open-floor meetings where residents can bring their issues to the forefront . Private-public arrangements are then formed among the residents, the relevant Councillor (under the CTTRC) and MP Ram, where the responsibilities to procure material, labour and machinery are shared.
MP Arnold Ram hopes that this initiative would build better, stronger and more resilient communities and villages through such community work, while enhancing the relationships between residents and the MP’s office. Thus far, the response has been quite favourable.
Some of the works that have been undertaken in the DIY Projects include, but are not limited to: the patching of potholes, paving of short areas of roadway, the clearing of drains and cutting of grass.
These community-based initiatives were halted during the intense lockdown period under the Covid-19 pandemic but has now re-started as of Sunday 5th September, 2021.
The Checklist. was informed that the Caroni Central Constituency Office led by MP Arnold Ram and supported by Councillor Anil Baliram has completed DIY Project Work in Chickland/Caparo Road and Gran Couva Main Road and have carded Uquire Road and Arena Road as the upcoming projects.
As we move to highlight the neighbouring Constituency of Tabaquite, The Checklist. noted another innovative roads-based project that was spearheaded by MP Anita Haynes, called the #FixOurRoadsTabaquite Social Media Campaign. MP Haynes and her office gave us some insight into this initiative that was much appreciated.
The #FixOurRoadsTabaquite Social Media Campaign is an initiative to publicly document the deplorable state of infrastructure, starting with the road network and drainage systems.
This project was launched in September 2020 and its aim was focused on raising awareness and holding the government responsible for severe infrastructural neglect.
Constituents were urged to share their images and videos of roads in need of urgent repair.
Their contributions informed written submissions to The Ministry of Works and Transport as well as guided MP Haynes’ parliamentary presentations, which called for these matters to be addressed by Central Government.
Shortly after the campaign launch, communities across the constituency were affected by unprecedented residential flooding. The Minister of Works and Transport joined MP Haynes on site visits to the affected areas and committed to addressing some of Tabaquite’s infrastructure and drainage issues.
Unfortunately, the Ministry’s commitment was not put into action and many households have yet to receive any assistance.
MP Haynes also highlighted these challenges various times during her 2020 Budget Debate as well as during Standing Finance Committee sessions. This year, she also raised a Matter on the Adjournment to specifically address the severity of landslips and also reiterated the Ministry of Works and Transport’s lack of response to the #FixOurRoadsTabaquite campaign during the fuel levy.
Several site visits were also conducted by MP Haynes and the CTTRC to the affected communities. Additionally, discussions with representatives of The Ministry of Works and Transport and the Regional Corporation were held to discuss collaborative, sustainable solutions for Tabaquite’s infrastructure and flooding concerns. To date, the lack of funding continues to be cited as the main cause for a lack of action.
The Checklist. was made aware of the fact that MP Haynes raised the urgent matter of landslip repairs in the Parliament, six months ago.
The Minister of Works and Transport admitted that 10% of all landslip repair projects identified by his Ministry were in the constituency of Tabaquite.
According to MP Haynes, despite this significant number of projects requiring urgent attention, there has been no update on when works are scheduled to begin in the Constituency. These areas have since worsened and many more communities are affected by poor road maintenance, infrequently cleared watercourses, dilapidated wooden bridges and inadequate drainage infrastructure.
This is not just a matter of inconvenience but a matter of public safety, which poses serious risks to commuters and residents.
Multiple landslips continue to negatively impact the nearby road and drainage infrastructure, causing some roadways to have even been rendered impassable.
Several homes are also at risk.
After hearing from both MP Haynes and MP Ram, The Checklist. has noted the striking similarities in challenges faced by both Members within their constituencies, and also in their unique ways of attempting to be solution-oriented and handle the unjust discrimination shown to their Constituencies. Both offices continue to emphasise the urgent need for road repair works and the requests of both MPs seem to fall on deaf ears.
Similar Stories in other UNC Constituencies
Additionally, The Checklist. reached out to the offices of MP Rodney Charles and MP Roodal Moonilal and both MPs also echoed very similar challenges: lack of funding by the Government and lack of prioritization of non-PNM communities.
When MP Rushton Paray was interviewed by The Checklist. via phone, he indicated that (1) year ago, he wrote to the Director of Drainage- Ministry of Works, indicating that there were collapsed cylinders that had contributed to the flooding situation that affected approximately (30) homes, last year.
As expected, no works were done to replace the cylinders in the road crossing and the community was once again thrown into a state of despair, as they struggled to cope with 5ft of flood waters.
However, it should be noted that MP Paray said that the Ministry instead saw it fit to undertake works at two (2) other road crossings that were clearly of a lower priority level.
One of these projects was the road crossing in front the office of the former PNM Mayaro Candidate’s office.
Lack of finances seems to be the simplest excuse used by the Government, but in light of the aforementioned, The Checklist. wonders why the execution and completion of the extensive road works in front of this grand PNM Mayaro Office was not impeded by lack of finances.
The neglect of selective rural communities must not be allowed to go unchecked.
– Shastra Maharaj