Cuts to blame for flooding
Kevin Henry, September 2009
The damage caused by the recent flooding in parts of East Belfast was clearly preventable. The areas worst hit such as Sydenham, Belmont and the lower Ravenhill Road have been hit repeatedly over the past few years. Three years ago homes in East Belfast were badly hit by flooding. At the time residents were promised by politicians that the appropriate work on upgrading the water service infrastructure would be prioritised.
Three years on and the problem is escalating to the point that heavy showers can cause as much damage as continual torrential rain causing raw sewage to flood into peoples homes. The situation has been made even worse still by the council granting planning permission for 22 new apartments in the Castlereagh area, when the sewage system clearly cannot deal with current levels.
Residents are right to be angry at the lack of action by NI Water and the Roads Service in the wake of repeated flooding incidents in many parts of East Belfast. A third of water service workforce has been sacked as part of setting up NI Water which had due to be privatised after the introduction of domestic water charges. The water service continues to be partly run by private companies who are more interested in making profits than delivering an efficient service.
Cuts to the emergency flooding telephone service meant there were only two staff on duty who found themselves incapable of dealing with the flood of phone calls reporting the damage.
The constituents of the First Minister Peter Robinson clearly cannot rely on him to resolve the threat of regular flooding. The ‘Swish’ Family Robinson are completely out of touch with the people they claim to represent.
Residents can’t afford to wait on these right wing politicians to deliver sustainable change that can limit the damage caused by torrential rain. Residents affected along with others in the community should link up with others affected by flooding, such as the recent cases in Bangor and Newtownards, to put pressure on the Assembly to act.
Such a campaign will need to demand the water service be brought fully back into public ownership. The private companies should be kicked out and the service run democratically by representatives of water service workers, residents, elected representatives and trade union representatives to provide a modern, well funded and sustainable water service. The money wasted on PPP contracts should be invested into developing rapid flood relief systems, not turned into profits for big business.