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Letter: Hydraulic harum-scarum at Silver Stream
Published on July 10, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

An economic and ecological crime has been perpetrated against the residents of Silver Stream, just south of the collapsed Mon Desir interchange in Fyzabad, Trinidad. Never in the history of this area, said one resident, have such ruinous floods been experienced. It is now three weeks since the Bret deluge; yet the water in Silver Stream remains. A virtual dam has been created. Damming farmers and their crops. Damming poultry and other livestock. Damming roads and the village.

After touring the area, Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, chairman of the Siparia Regional Corporation, decried the ruin and misery caused; the suffering, the loss of household property, the invasion of unwanted species, have become unbearable.

Silver Stream is one of the most picturesque, pastoral landscapes in Trinidad. It is a land of cows, flat pasture and isolated clumps of trees. Just north of it is the collapsed Mon Desir interchange. This interchange was being built to connect the Debe to Mon Desir ‘arm’ to the Sando to Point ‘leg’.

This is the spot where members of the Highway Reroute Movement, four women and three men, got arrested in 2013. I myself got arrested there on three occasions. We have been appearing in the Siparia Magistrates Court for four years now; the matter is yet to be decided. This was the spot where a river was diverted to accommodate the now collapsed Mon Desir interchange.

This Mon Desir interchange was one of five proposed for construction, at Fyzabad, Siparia, Penal, in addition to the completed Debe interchange, on a complex and sensitive hydrological system. The planners played hydraulic harum-scarum with the river that traversed this interchange site, and its associated hydrology, leading to the damming of water.

This is the very spot at which a stricken otter was captured in a photo by Trevor Watson in October 2013. An Express article, ‘Otter Loses His Way’, began: “The protest against the Debe to Mon Desir Highway had a new, seemingly unwilling spectator yesterday -- a protected river otter who appeared to have been trapped when his waterway was cut off by construction on the mega project. Looking sad and weary, the otter was spotted by Express photographer, Trevor Watson.”

What befell the otter is now befalling the people: dyked and cut off by the politicians, planners, technical consultants, contractors, technocrats, bureaucrats, representing our governments.

I remember clearly the day, in 2013, when seven of our activists were arrested. Walking onto the interchange site we approached the OAS officials, the Brazilian managers and engineers. We explained to them the technical flaws, the magnitude of risks, economic and ecological. They understood! “But you have to talk to your government, NIDCO, the ministry of works,” they said. “We will stop, re-route, if your government tells us to.”

In this design-and-build project, the foreign engineers and managers understood; but the PP government sent the police and a hired 25-seater maxi-taxi to arrest and take us away.

While the citizens of Silver Stream suffer the horrors of government blunder, foolhardiness, PP proponents and perpetrators are sitting easy in the comfort of their own homes. They refused to abide by the Armstrong Report, which recommended that a hydrological study, an environmental cost-benefit analysis, a social impact survey be done, before any works proceed. They refused to listen to the intelligentsia on the ground. They had to be beaten by the reality of rain to be exposed.

Silver Stream is not the proverbial “fridge and garbage” flood. It is a clear-cut economic and ecological crime committed by known public officials. Since 2014, beginning with a letter from economist Mary King and Satu Ramcharan to the president, a stream of letters have been delivered to government calling for a full-scale scientific and independent audit of Debe to Mon Desir; including to the current attorney general, ministry of national security, and prime minister.

In March of this year, the Highway Reroute Movement appeared before the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Land and Infrastructure and outlined 25 items in making its case for an audit. Add one more: Silver Stream. The surface layers of this entire project must be washed away to expose its subterranean layers of criminality.

Wayne Kublalsingh
Reads: 2437

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