Road infrastructure needs to be in line with changing climate

"Infrastructure is seen as the mwasuring stick for development in rural areas. Highway works have been ongoing in recent years for Valencia. However is it sensible given the onset of now common climate shocks that destroy said infrastructure?- An introduction to the topic, community, problem & affected stakeholders "

Road transport is one of the main contributors to increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, consequently aggravating global warming, but it is also one of the sectors that suffering the most from climate change impacts.

Countries in the Caribbean are being more frequently affected by the impacts of climate change.

Millions of dollars are invested every time there is a natural calamity. That’s why sustainable infrastructure (climate resilience) is needed.

And while countries in the region are working towards achieving climate resilience, smaller communities need attention.

One such community is Valencia in Trinidad and Tobago (TT), which has been facing a drainage problem at its market for a very long time.

“For the past 15 years or so I have been functioning not only as a farmer for my livelihood but also as a community activist to bring resolution to different issues in different aspects. I more or less target the real issues and always try to work on making it happen. I have always been working on making my community a better place,” said Eron Melville, who currently serves as President of the Valencia Village Council, a semi-rural area located in the northeastern area of Trinidad.

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Valencia is well-known as one of the last major stops before merging with the Toco main road, on the most eastern point of the country. Sitting along the Northern Range, a defining mountainous area, the community has access to natural land & forest resources as well as proximity to the coastline creating a bountiful base for the establishment of livelihoods.

Mr. Melville, a community activist, said, “Over the years, there are specific areas I have placed a lot of emphasis on, one in particular being the NAMDEVCO farmer’s market facility in which I am a vendor.”

NAMDEVCO stands for the National Agricultural Marketing & Development Company, a state board meant to bring betterment via diverse market linkages for the sale of produce.

“Also being the President of the Market Management Committee, as the voice of the vendors we have encountered a number of challenges over the years. The worse we have encountered was not related to our flailing economy,” says Mr. Melville.

Approximately 3 years ago, a development project began to expand the Valencia to Toco Highway extension, which began with a roundabout in the heart of Valencia Junction. The project is a part of the government’s wider effort to increase economic activity along the Northeastern region. It involves widening of the roads, upgrading drains, slope stabilisation, and paving. Such infrastructure is seen a major catalyst for national growth and development.

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At the heart of the junction the farmer’s market is lost in development. Photo credit: Eron Melville

The residents of Valencia state the government did not think about the future when doing the expansion. As days go by, more and more people are living in the area. On top of that, climate change impacts are getting worse. Not only can’t the drainage carry the growth of the community, but increased precipitation and rainfall is contributing to terrible flooding.

However, Melville and his fellow residents have a different viewpoint from the government, an all too familiar setting within the developing world context.

He explains, “In 2020, this construction of a light tower and a roundabout at the Valencia junction interfered with the existing drainage system that channels water through the Valencia junction which caused the market to be flooded out regularly, affecting farmers and business owners in the immediate vicinity of the junction. These include the grocery owners, other street vendors, bars, and all pedestrian traffic. I don’t know if I would call it a ripple effect, but we also had the pandemic at the time, so it was doubly difficult.”

“This was not an ordinary community infrastructure problem; it arose as a direct result of the highway project which was being conducted not by a private entity but by the government.”

It was around this time that Melville and his community plight were featured on the Farmers Food Covid series which aired on local Trinidad & Tobago Television.

“Nonetheless we began to engage with local government representatives at the Ministry of Works and Transport to have the problem rectified. Currently we are engaged with the personnel of the company hired to execute the job, called Pure,” Melville said.

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Farming, Forestry, Transportation & other small business represent one of the major forms of livelihood in this community. Photo credit: Eron Melville

Earlier this year contractors made two diversions to the back of the market into Alexander Street and Jamoon Drive area, towards a larger drainage catchment. “And at this time a couple catch pits are being made within the market area. So we are seeing attempts being made to bring some kind of relief,” explained Melville.

Rather than resolve this primary issue, reactive measures such as creating catchment pits and diversions away from immediate flood-prone areas, namely the market, are not solving the problem but are quite literally creating a waterway throughout the central point of the community; one which is expanding and continues to negatively affect residents & motorists alike.

 


 

This story was originally published by the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture of Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.

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Keron Bascombe

Keron Bascombe

Keron is an agri-journalist and creator at Tech4Agri, a Caribbean-born agri-journalism initiative. He is passionate about supporting young journalists and agripreneurs through the power of mobile media, journalism, and communications.

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