Farmers besiege lands office over flooding By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
May 3, 2002

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Some 50 angry farmers yesterday besieged employees of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission and the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) at Mibicuri, Black Bush Polder (Region Six) in their offices for several hours. Order was restored when police reinforcements were dispatched to the area at around midday.

At around 10 am the angry group of farmers met with employees of the Commission and the NDC reportedly seeking relief from the flood waters which have covered their farm lands over recent weeks. Stabroek News understands that the farmers were dissatisfied with the response they received from the employees and instructed them to vacate the buildings. However, the employees refused and the farmers proceeded to barricade them inside the two buildings.

According to a senior officer attached to the Commission, five of the office's eight employees were trapped in the building by the angry crowd. The farmers, he said, nailed the doors to the building. "We have nothing to do with drainage and irrigation in the Polder, so we found it very strange that our employees have been targeted by farmers," he told this newspaper from his office.

Deputy Police Commander, Malvin Glasgow said that four tractors were parked across the road in the vicinity of the two buildings blocking traffic. According to Glasgow reinforcements dispatched to the area quickly removed the tractors and the barricades from the buildings. Order was restored to the area by midday.

A source from the Drainage and Irrigation Board at Whim told this newspaper that the sluices and a pump at the Eversham outfall were operating around the clock to drain the Polder. However, he noted, heavy and incessant rain over recent weeks had contributed in no small way to inundating the farming area and had stretched the irrigation system to its limit. According to the source, a large quantity of water poured into the Polder from the backlands placing the system under additional pressure.

Heavy-duty tractors, he said, had also damaged access dams used to transport paddy from the fields, forcing farmers to resort to the waterways to transport their grain from the fields.

Recently Minister of Agriculture, Navin Chandarpal visited the Polder for an on-the-spot inspection and promised to assist farmers. Over recent weeks the East Berbice coast has been inundated by almost daily rain causing widespread inconvenience, damage and losses. On Tuesday it fell heavily throughout the night after a few days of sunshine.

Farmers throughout the region and in particular the Polder and East Bank Berbice have been complaining about the damage to their crops by the heavy rainfall. They have been calling on the authorities to provide urgent assistance to alleviate the flooding. Their problems have been compounded by the dreaded paddy bug, which has hit their rice crop. The extent of the damage caused by the bug is however yet to be ascertained by regional officials.

Regional Vice-Chairman, Kadim Bacchus confirmed that the sluices and pump at Eversham were working continuously to alleviate the flooding but the incessant rainfall was creating additional problems. He told this newspaper that approximately 300 acres of paddy remain to be harvested in the No. 52-74 area. In the Black Bush Polder he said some 10,000 acres are still to be reaped out of a total of 17,000 acres.

Approximately 45,000 acres of paddy have been cultivated in the region for the first rice crop. According to Bacchus, harvesting should be completed within another two weeks, weather permitting.