Article posted by Trinidad Guardian on 19th August, 2021.
With T&T awash in floods from east to south up to yesterday, the Planning Ministry’s Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) is actively reviewing its policy regarding hillside development with all relevant agencies.
The response came yesterday after Guardian Media sent queries to Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis on Monday regarding whether there will be any change to laws to prevent further hillside and hilltop encroachments by developers.
This is being cited as among key factors causing bad flooding in the north as well as south.
Minister Robinson-Regis – “The Division is actively reviewing its policy regarding hillside development with all relevant agencies.”
Residents of Maraval –which experienced severe flash flooding recently– sent pictures showing developments up the mountainsides and hilltops along Nigel Avenue, other Maraval locations and also in Santa Cruz.
Pictures were sent by Guardian Media to Robinson- Regis. The Opposition has also displayed pictures of devastating flooding in South including caused by poor maintenance of systems.
Yesterday, when Tunapuna Main Road turned into a rushing river of brown water from end-to-end, motorists and residents pointed to streets leading from the mountainsides which became gushing “tributaries” to the Main Road “river”.
They also blamed indiscriminate development. “We never see Tunapuna like this, all the way to Auzonville Shopping Centre underwater,” several added.
That situation prompted UNC Oropouche West MP Dave Tancoo– whose constituency has been submerged in recent weeks–to say “Tunapuna’s experience is what my constituents face every time rain falls.”
The response from Robinson- Regis stated she’s ensuring TCPD is “giving attention to reinforcing collaborative approaches” to deal with the matters that contribute to flooding with the various agencies in the process.
Robinson-Regis said, “The onus also falls on developers and citizens undertaking any development to abide by the laws and ensure they operate in a manner that’s not detrimental to the environment and others.”
“The Division and the other partner agencies in the spatial development process are serious about proper spatial development practices and are reviewing and making the necessary changes where necessary to ensure citizens’ well-being and safety regarding physical development in T&T.”
Robinson-Regis continued, “The Division is actively reviewing its policy regarding hillside development with all relevant agencies. The Division is aware development happens at various heights and along certain types of slopes, however the key is how the developments occur, which are guided by the various policies and legislation.”
There was no word when the review will be completed.
To begin construction, the Ministry stated a developer must secure approvals from the Division for doing building/engineering operations, as well as from WASA, Trinidad and Tobago Fire Services, the Ministry of Works’ Works Drainage Division, the local corporation and a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
The Ministry noted clauses in the Town & Country Planning Act and regional corporations’ law to guide land development to mitigate against flooding.
It also cited the EMA Act, Chapter 35:05 of 2000, where legislation concerning all aspects of flooding is covered by the Certificate of Environmental Clearance Rules, 2001.
The Ministry admitted one key “variable” that all agencies are addressing– especially within regional corporations– is ensuring there’s enough staff on the ground to monitor that the work being done matches the approvals issued.