In a bid to minimize inundation from heavy rain, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) has so far spent over $120 million on ensuring that drains and canals are properly cleaned, Town Clerk Royston King said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference, King said, the expenditure started at the beginning of the rainy season. “We have our own men and contractors working to ensure that we have a good flow of storm water,” he said. Several areas of the city were flooded yesterday, during heavy downpours that started around 2.30 pm. However, by the next four hours much of the water, in central Georgetown at least, had receded.
City Engineer Colvern Venture explained that the M&CC has been vigorously addressing the issues, taking into consideration the amount of rainfall over the past several weeks.
“We have men on the ground 24/7 dealing with the clearing of tubes, blockages and waterways, so that the drains and so are not heavily vegetated, so that the water can quickly reach the sluices and pumps… [to] be discharged as quickly as possible,” Venture said. He added that the M&CC was working with limited resources, but being assisted by other agencies to ensure there is no severe flooding around George-town.
While some $240 million was budgeted to deal with drainage works around the city, Venture explained that the M&CC did not have the funds “readily available” and as such was doing the work in phases. He also stated that his department has been working along with the councillors for each constituency and residents of the communities that are prone to flooding.
“You will find that we will not be doing any major works during these rainy periods but just to address the areas that are critical in the various wards,” he said. Special attention was being placed on areas such as Alexander Village, South, North, East and West Ruimveldt, Campbellville and Queenstown, which are areas that are known to flood easily, he added.
In terms of South and North Ruimveldt, King highlighted that the council has been having difficulties clearing the canals. “We are working with the drains in those areas and we know we have to deal with the Cane View Canal. We know the Downer Canal, North Sideline and so on. Of course we are still having some difficulties with clearing some of the canals because of the phenomenon of squatting. It is very, very hard for us to get our machines in there to clear and as a result we are having problems in those areas,” King said.
He also explained that because some of the squatters use pit latrines, waste flows into the canals, creating “the right environment for aggressive aquatic growth” and makes it increasingly difficult for the M&CC to keep the waterways clear and clean.
He also said that the council is working along with the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the Central Housing and Planning Authority to relocate the squatters in order to gain access to the canals to properly clean the drainage system in the areas.
Meanwhile, in order to further broaden its data collection capabilities, King said the M&CC was contemplating using drones to gather information. “…With respect to overtopping in certain areas so that we will be guided and we will be able to do the kind of works that will allow the citizens to be comfortable,” he added.
In addition to using the drones to collect information with regard to flooding, King pointed out that they will be used to gather information about traffic flow in the city and assist the City Constabulary in terms of security.
He said the council was currently exploring the option of hiring a private contractor, but would be working towards acquiring drones for the City Engineer’s Department.
He noted that several engineers had been suspended after they were found to be neglectful of their duty with regard to maintaining the sluices and pumps. “We are very serious when it comes to securing the integrity of our drainage system,” he said. “If we have problems with sluices or pumps then we have problems in the city.”
Currently, all the pumps and sluices around Georgetown are working.
Venture stated that all of the sluices and pumps are working and are being monitored and maintained to ensure that they continue to work efficiently during the season.
King also took time out to commend the citizens around the central business district, who he said were resisting the temptation to litter. “You notice even when we have overtopping in certain areas that you don’t see garbage floating in the storm water but what you actually see is clear water waiting to run off,” he said.
When questioned about the drainage recommendations that were made by the students from the Netherlands, Venture said most of the things they suggested the council was already aware of and was working towards. “What they would’ve done was to go further to develop a model to enhance information gathering and prioritize as it relates to response to drainage issues within the city,” he said.
Venture pointed out that the recommendations surrounded reintroducing more canals and increasing catchment within the city, which he said is difficult.
Around 2.30 pm yesterday, there were heavy downpours which lasted for about an hour. Several areas in the city were inundated. These included the critical areas that Venture had mentioned, parts of the central business district and others such as New Market Street, around the Georgetown Public Hospital. However, after the rainfall subsided, the water started to recede slowly. By 6 pm at least quarter of the water had already drained off. Up to press time all of the pumps and sluices were working.