Incessant rain blamed for weekend flooding in Berbice By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
June 12, 2002

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Some twelve hours of incessant rainfall between Thursday evening and Friday last has been blamed for flooding over the weekend in several areas across the East Berbice region, according to Regional Vice-Chairman, Kadim Bacchus.

Torrential rains dumped several inches of water on sections of New Amsterdam, the farming district of East Bank Berbice, several villages along the East Coast, Fyrish/Gibraltar, Rose Hall town, communities between Lancaster and Bloomfield, Black Bush Polder and Crabwood Creek.

And two weeks ago regional officials were at the receiving end of a tongue-lashing from Minister of Fisheries, Other Crops and Livestock, Satyadeow Sawh during a visit to the Polder. The minister was quoted as saying that "if those in positions cannot do their jobs, then 'heads will roll'."

However, the regional vice chairman told Stabroek News that the administration was only able to commence its work programme for this year in April when allocations were released following the passage of the Budget in March. Sawh was quoted as having agreed with a suggestion that the extent of the flooding could have been avoided if the regional administration had done its job properly.

Bacchus blamed the incessant rainfall saying that the drainage system could not have taken off the amount of water that was dumped on the region.

Yesterday, the acting regional chairman said contractors were being dispatched to the Crabwood Creek area to look at a problem along the Crown Dam which was weakened by the volume of water rushing down from the savannahs.

"Emergency works are also to be executed on intake boxes which have suffered breaches and along the Sea Dam where erosion has taken place in the vicinity of the Number Two Sluice."

According to Bacchus, the administration is "trying to get its maintenance programme off the ground in the Number 52 - 74 area with the cleaning of trenches. The main drains at Joppa, Eversham and Adventure where three pumps are located are also being cleaned."

Yesterday there was still floodwater in Lesbeholden, Yakusari and Mibicuri but according to Bacchus, emergency works have begun in the Polder. "At Joppa the upstream section of the outfall channel has been desilted while the Eversham outfall has been desilted."

At Lesbeholden, he said, a gravel pump had been used to flush the channel of the silt that has accumulated while maintenance of the main drains in the four sections of the Polder has commenced. The emergency works being conducted, he noted, will cost in the vicinity of $7 million.

During the recent Cabinet outreach exercise some regional and local government officials came under heavy criticism for what was described as inefficiency and sloth from the minister as well as President Bharrat Jagdeo.

At a media conference to conclude the two-day visit, the President announced that Cabinet had agreed to make $3 million available to farmers throughout the region who had suffered losses as a result of flooding. However last weekend farmers deemed this amount inadequate with one Black Bush farmer saying that his losses had totalled $2 million.

At Rose Hall, Bacchus pointed out that a breach along the boundary between Port Mourant and Rose Hall had caused severe flooding and this was being addressed by the administration. In an effort to bring some relief to residents in the Lancaster to Bloomfield area, the administration has desilted the Letter Kenny/Bloomfield outfall channel while the Liverpool outfall was recently desilted.

He however explained that "every time the tide comes up it brings silt with it and to keep the channels clear is a continuous and expensive exercise but we have to maintain them." He also issued a call to Neighbourhood Democratic Councils along the coast to keep their internal drains clean.

According to Bacchus, the Drainage and Irrigation Board has been approached to dispatch engineers to the region to "look at the hydraulics of the area and to ascertain if part of the problem is water coming from the backlands into the residential areas." Noting that the Lancaster to Whim area is prone to flooding because it is low-lying, he told this newspaper that the administration was looking at drafting a programme to prevent flooding in this and other areas, including Fyrish/ Gibraltar and Kilcoy/Chesney.

Plans are also afoot to clean the Borlam outfall channel which is silted up and to "look at the door of the sluice which is reportedly damaged."

Minister of Public Works, Anthony Xavier during the media conference disclosed that his ministry plans to continue its sea defence maintenance programme in the region this year. "We hope to complete work from the Sea Dam to Seawell/Borlam which when completed will free the area between Number 15 and Seawell of flooding," he said.

Referring to the Fyrish/Gibraltar area, the vice chairman said he understands that there is a problem with drainage whenever there is a heavy downpour. He noted that villages in this area and a section of Albion depend on Guysuco’s drainage system. "However when Guysuco is pumping, the level of the water in the trenches rises", he said, "impeding the flow of water from the surrounding villages."

Several farmers complained of losing crops and livestock over the weekend while thousands of Berbicians were severely inconvenienced by the floods.

A number of businessmen also reported losing thousands of dollars in stock damaged in lower flats by floodwaters along the Corentyne coast.