A Flood of ‘Dotish’ Talk

By Raffique Shah
December 05, 2022

Raffique ShahIf you know the Caroni River basin fairly well, and you are familiar with the Caroni River, if you have seen it overflow its banks after, say, two days of torrential rainfall, you will have seen floods spread rapidly, inundating everything along its banks for miles. Ever since I came of age and a rode a bicycle, and later acquired a motor vehicle, I have had many encounters with the flood waters of the Caroni, starting with cycling through Madras Road when the water was maybe eighteen inches high, which was challenging, but nevertheless something of a thrill for us boys, to driving through Kelly, St Helena and Piarco villages, having to skilfully use one foot on the vehicle’s accelerator to keep the exhaust functioning, and another on the brake pedal to control its speed.

I was among hundreds of motorists who slept in our vehicles on the incomplete north-bound lane of the Butler Highway back in 1987 (??) when floods rendered it impassable.

When I look back at my adventures with flooding, I realize that I can be a poster-geezer for floods. I was born in a flood in the then rustic village of Endeavour. My mother told me that on the day she gave birth to me, it had rained heavily and there was flooding even though it was early March. When she took baby Raf home, it was to a small cottage in Brechin Castle, not far from Pt. Lisas, where I would spend the next four years of my childhood, waking, sleeping and playing less than one hundred meters from the very deep and very active Couva river. Even as a child, I realised that flooding was serious business when my father warned me repeatedly to not go close to the river.

Yet, when we moved to Freeport in 1950, Pa had chosen to rent a house that literally sat on a bend in the Freeport river, which meandered south, then turned west, then turned back north, all around this plot of land on which we lived for four years and faced about one hundred floods. I exaggerate, but it felt like that since there were so many days on which we had to walk through flood waters to get inside the house which stood on stilts approximately six feet tall. When it rained, many nights we would awaken to the sound of water lapping just below the floor on which we slept.

We played in floods: innocently unaware of the dangers of water-borne diseases, although we were mindful of the pit latrine nearby that was also inundated in floods. Later in life it seemed to me that everywhere I lived, there were rivers, water courses and at Sandhurst, a beautiful lake into which flowed the rustic Wish Stream. So I know a thing or ten about floods. Post-army, when I chose to organise sugar cane farmers and help establish a food crop farmers association, I traversed this island from Waller Field and Barataria in the north to Barrackpore and Moruga in the south. Many occasions when I set meetings I had to brave flooded, pot-holed roads to get to those meetings. Often farmers would call saying to me, ‘Boss, the Papourie Road flooded’ or ‘Rock Road under water’. I have witnessed The Bamboos-all three of them, El Socorro South, Pasea, under water for days. Farmers who lived in these communities were inconvenienced, suffered severe losses of crops they will never harvest and livestock that perished by drowning.

I have recounted the history above to indicate that I know, I have experienced how floods can wreak havoc with people lives. A flooded house smells awful, sometimes for months after the event. The dampness seems to remain clinging to you as a constant reminder of the rush of muddy water, of moving to high ground to secure your person and belongings, the distress of the weeks if not months of cleaning in an attempt to rid a stench and stains that will never leave.

On occasions we would seek some assistance from government to get the worst affected farmers back on their feet. In Bamboo Two, where the houses were generally small and stood on wooden stilts, barely above the flood waters, and where, seeking safety, livestock joined man in the upper living and sleeping floor, the flooded communities rallied together to help each other. While they believed the government was responsible for keeping the main watercourses flowing, they knew that they had chosen to live in the Caroni River’s flood zone, hence they had responsibilities.

The Government did not compel them to live there, nor was the Government responsible for the heavier-than-normal rains that, from time to time struck. The Government definitely had no hand in unleashing the recent six-day deluge that was bound to flood everywhere it poured.

If you listen to ‘dotish’ talk, you would swear the government ordered WASA to open the valve in the skies above T&T.

9 thoughts on “A Flood of ‘Dotish’ Talk”

  1. Here we go again. The PNM apologist in chief, Raffique Shah, with yet another column in defense of the PNM, intending to be subtle, but yet totally transparent.
    If severe flooding had been going on since 1950, do you not think that successive governments would have found ways to mitigate the problem?
    People did not intentionally choose to live in these flooded areas.The circumstances of indentureship have placed generations of people in certain areas of the island.
    Should they have relocated to POS , significant parts of which are also subject to recent, first-time flooding.
    YES! Government is responsible for disasters of this nature and forward thinking, post 1956 politicians, are showing that they lack the intellectual capicity to deal with most issues facing the country, now with an increased population.
    YES Boss, the island is flooded and government’s repeated failures to seek more permanent solutions will continue to hurt the nation.
    Do you think that some foreign help is needed to save this minature nation from drowning into the seas as the areal views indicate?
    Nostalgic rationalizations of floods gone by serve no useful purpose. A long term, technical, expert foreign plan of action is needed since over fifty years of amateur stop gap local measures have failed.

  2. Flooding has only gotten worst under this regime. Seven years of suffering with the highest level of flooding in late 2018. One would assume after that record breaking flooding that the ministry would have engaged in an exercise of clearing water courses, desilting rivers, widening drains and building catchment basins. But it is 2022 and it is like a bad recurring nightmare. Only this time it has gotten worst with more land slides and pot holes than anyone can count. The normal excuse is that we are doing the best we can.

    According to member of Parliament for Barataria/San Juan Saddam Hosein the ministry of works has collapsed under the severe pressure of doing “nuttin” okay let’s say overwhelmed.
    I would recommend that the ministry be split and another ministry created “ ministry of flooding and flood mitigation”. This ministry focus on the drains and rivers. It is clear that Ministry of Works cannot handle the pressure.

    It is clearly evident when one looks at the stats. Here are some thought provoking numbers that even a Sandhurst trained military officer cannot dispute, allocations for 2022 Flood mitigation erosion. Allocated $29.9 million Spent: $7 million
    So $22.9 million remains unspent. That is a staggering number.
    It gets worst Drainage and irrigation. Allocated: $31 million
    Spent: $5.3 million. That means $25 million remain unspent.

    Major river clearing programme. Allocated: $12 million Spent: $1.5 million. Upgrade to fix the existing drainage pumps
    Allocated: $15 million…Spent: $3 million. Infrastructure rehabilitation and Flood mitigation programme Allocated: $4 million Spent: $800,000

    Today there is a pothole protest across the nation. The aforementioned figures show that the money is there but only if Noel Garcia in charge of it, it will be spent. He spent $89 million just to “fix” President house and not a dog bark.
    Rohan is one of those cheapskate Indians who prefer to see Trinidad sink into the Gulf rather than spend the blasted money to fix what needs to be fixed. He needs to give out contracts right left and Center. Instead of sending back the money to the Ministry of Finance. Nuff said.

  3. I am looking forward to Mr. Raffique Shah’s article next week telling us that the roads were always bad ,since 1950, so quit complaining.

  4. Reading this article one would think that Trinidad is the only country in the world with rain and rivers. In Europe, in populated areas, most of the mighty rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine, the Seine and the Tiber to name a few have flood control measures in place such as embankments, dams and diversionary canals and flooding is a rare occurrence. In Trinidad where we have a few streams and creeks which are misnamed as rivers flooding is an annual event.
    It appears that T&T has a shortage of good Civil Engineers who could solve the flooding problem in the blink of an eye or we have PNM apologists like the esteemed Mr Shah who would have us believe that the perennial flooding problem is an act of God and therefore a nuisance we need to live with.

  5. I am riding wid U on this one Bro Shah.Trinidad have not been free from political Sectarianism since post-colonialism. Our Historical Dravidian Cousins, the ones refusing to pay property taxes, their Humongous ownerships accumulating vast amount of water with no proper drainage, must Share some of the blame. A case in point, is the Chase village triangle on the Southern main road. Some time back, the Caroni River uses to be the dumping ground for all house hold used materials, plus Murdered Dead Humans and Animals. Today. The lacked of True Dhamma, epitomises the negativity of the UNC in the midst of present Day Divided Trinidad. From the Days of the DLP to the present UNC, their politics have been Recalcitrant. No. To the WEST Indian Federation. No. to Political Independence. No. To Property Taxes. The last 70yrs volumes of No’ can be published. Our Dravidian Family and Members of the UNC have had a History of OBSTINATELY UNCOOPERATIVE ATTITUDE towards AUTHORITY or DISCIPLINE. A blind Wo/Man can openly see Dis lacked of SILA/MORALITY. To be Honest, Trinidad’ So- called Society, is suffering solely , because of the NEGATIVITY of the Trinidad UNC.

    1. “ To be Honest, Trinidad’ So- called Society, is suffering solely , because of the NEGATIVITY of the Trinidad UNC…..”
      These are things that are positive that according to PNM apologist BC we should be grateful and rejoicing over since the balisier brigade in charge.
      (1) Highest murder rate in the history of the nation… be positive folks..
      (2) Gas increased 130% in the last 7 years. This is really something to rejoice about.
      (3) Pot holes and landslippage litter the country. When you drive your car and it hit a hole shout “great is da PNM”.
      (4) In 2018 and 2022, flooding continues to wreak havoc across the nation. Water courses remain uncleared….yah is we country.
      (5) Sign at San Fernando General Hospital. Please don’t come here we full up. Hehe lawwd have mercy…..great is da PNM.
      (6) Deficit is at over $ 140 billion and growing. Well nobody in the PNM cares…
      (7) The PNM have to pay OAS for defaulting in the Point Fortin Highway over $780 million…. Da is not because great is da PNM…

      Yes a lot of good things happening under the PNM. To be fair PNM Indians are happy…talk about a slave mindset..

  6. The words of the late H. Volney. May he rest in peace.

    In the last few days, we have seen the very worst of this government. In the wake of immeasurable suffering by large swaths of physical Trinidad overcome by flooding and its aftermath omission after omission, and failure after failure have collectively shown up not just its incompetence, but it’s seeming callous ‘don’t -care’ attitude towards the largely Indo-Trinidad segment of the people.

  7. “While they believed the government was responsible for keeping the main watercourses flowing, they knew that they had chosen to live in the Caroni River’s flood zone, hence they had responsibilities”

    I agree with you maybe the government should relocate these people and put them in government housing. I know they are putting up houses all over St. Augustine.

    The above comment was made also by a PNM minister. People should not build houses in the lowly areas. However, when indentureship was over these were the lands given to indentured labourers. They were given lands in very hostile environment. Building houses in these areas were not a problem the floods came and was gone within a few days.

    Today however, the record shows that this current PNM is an urbanized party without much concern for rural communities. All they care about is the areas that were gerrymandered by Dr. Williams. They like to win elections then sit on their a.. doing nothing to improve the nation. Greenvale was flooded, action was taken to mitigate flooding; why they can’t do the same for other communities.

    It is an attitude within the PNM that those communities that did not vote for them deserve nothing from the public purse. And so water courses are not cleared, rivers are not dredged, drains are not widen, pumps are not working, so maximum suffering under maximum leader.

    The subtle underlying current is the belief that tribal people suffered more than anyone else and are therefore the most deserving of the treasury. (Empty treasury). With such psychological programming sweet TnT will always be imprisoned by the rivers….hmmm

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