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Barrackpore residents are bracing for floods in the rainy season, just about a month from now, after a land developer backfilled part of the Jingiesingh River to extend his property.
More than 40 residents yesterday signed a petition calling on the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation and the Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan to widen the river and take action against the developer Ramasar Mahadeo.
During a protest at Rochard Road, Barrackpore yesterday, the residents of Rochard Road vowed to seek legal redress if the matter was not rectified soon.
When the Guardian Media team visited yesterday, the river appeared to be diverted. Rajesh Samaroo, who headed the protest, said the work began last September and was completed over a weekend before anyone could alert State agencies.
Samaroo said they pleaded with the developer to stop interfering with the river course and he apologised. Samaroo said weeks later, just as they predicted, huge floods affected the area causing damage to livestock and personal property.
The resident said the developer returned to the United States and the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation and the Ministry of Works failed to take action to return the river to its normal course.
“We want to know whether the Penal/Debe Corporation will go back to bringing mattresses and water for flood victims like they did last year, or if they will take action now to fix the river like it was to prevent the flooding we faced last year,” Samaroo said.
Rooplal Bissoon, a flood victim, said the project was a danger to farmers.
“When they block up the river here, all the upstream tributaries overflow and we suffer. We want the Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan to visit this area and get a first-hand look at what was done here. This is not right,” Bissoon said.
Pensioner Rookmin Samaroo said she knew the path of the river, having lived in the area for all her life.
“I know when here was a lagoon. People backfilled and built their houses. This one resident does not care that so many people will suffer. All they care about is extending their property,” Rookmin said.
Responding to the complaint yesterday, the land developer admitted that he did not have permission to backfill the river. He said last year another resident backfilled another portion of land and this caused the river water to threaten the residents’ home.
“The water was coming up to the porch. I get dengue twice and the water from upstream was causing a stink. We had to protect our home so we cleaned the river,” Mahadeo said.
Contacted for comment councillor for Rochard/Barrackpore East Kheymwetti Chulan said he had received the residents’ complaints and petition. Chulan said she forwarded the issue to Kumarie Ramjatte from Ministry of Works and Transport Drainage Division.
Chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation Dr Allen Sammy said the mater was referred to the chief engineer of April 16.
Sammy said the corporation has started moving on people who are building illegal structures.
“We are issuing stop-work notices and we have now started advertising in the newspaper. Because most of our lands are in the Oropouche drainage basin, illegal backfilling has a ripple effect upstream and downstream,” Sammy said.
He added that people were accustomed to breaking the law, adding that most were compliant but a few had been delinquent.
Contacted yesterday, Minister Sinanan said he would look into the matter and have the relevant action taken following investigations.
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