Farming areas hard hit by flooding
…authorities implement action plan By Chamanlall Naipaul
June 15, 2002
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At a press conference yesterday, Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Satyadeow Sawh said visits to several communities have confirmed the severity of the weather on the lives of people.
“Approximately three inches of rain fell last Tuesday, resulting in intensified floods along most of the coast,” Sawh reported, noting that while there have been reports of flooding in most of the regions, the hardest hit are Regions Four (Demerara/Mahaica) and Six (East Berbice/Corentyne).
Consequently, Sawh, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Harripersaud Nokta and technical personnel visited the affected areas in Region Six on Wednesday to assess the impact of the flooding and to put into place an action plan to improve drainage.
“During the visit, we met with regional officials and farmers, and we have been able to identify a number of things that need to be done or that could be done in the short term or medium term to alleviate the situation. A number of things are already in train,” Sawh said.
The Minister said he met with residents of Nootenzuil/Belfield in Region Four who identified several of the deficiencies in the drainage system. Subsequently, the sluice at Belfield was reactivated and outfalls desilted, while drainage canals are being cleaned. Tubes are also being installed to help drain excess water.
Several measures are earmarked for the Black Bush Polder community, which is among the most severely hit areas in Berbice, and these include the cleaning of the canal at Johanna, excavation of the Joppa main drain, desilting of the Eversham outfall and the installation of a box koker at Highbury, among others, the Minister said.
Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Board, Ravi Narine noted that it is necessary to maintain a certain level of water in the East Demerara and Boerasirie Conservancies because come August, it might become necessary to release water for irrigation purposes during the replanting season.
He also estimated that the cost of clearing the “bottlenecks” in the present situation would be around $45M.
Sawh lamented that many of the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils can do much more in ensuring that preventative measures are in place. He gave an example to support his contention, stating that during his visit to Rose Hall recently, a pump which was supposed to be pumping out water was not in operation and instead of water being drained, it was coming into the community, resulting in flooding of yards.
However, he observed that one of the setbacks of the maintenance of the drainage and irrigation system is that servicing is not done year-round, adding that this is only done when money is available. He advocated a system whereby maintenance could be carried out all year without having to await the approval and release of funds.
The Minister also urged community involvement in maintenance programmes, noting that residents would have “intrinsic interest” in ensuring that work is properly executed because it would ultimately impact on their lives. He also noted the sloppy work that is done by some contractors who do not have the capacity to carry out certain jobs.
Narine also observed that shortage of finance also impedes maintenance because during difficult times farmers cannot afford to pay the rates and Central Government interjections may not suffice.
General Manager of the Mahaica/Mahaicony Agricultural project, Roy Singh said that since 1999, the concept of involving farmers in maintenance was introduced, but it would take time to be effectively developed.
The Minister said that the assessment of the damages to crops and livestock is ongoing and as such he was not in a position to give a precise figure. He pointed too that the idea of crop insurance, which exists in some countries, is one that can be considered, but studies would have to determine whether it is feasible in Guyana. He opined this should be an initiative of the private sector.
Sawh, however, assured that the Government was on top of the situation from day one and doing everything within its capacity to alleviate the situation. “We are aware of what’s happening. We care about what’s happening and are hoping that the situation will be regularised sooner than later, he declared.