Floods causing concern in three Corentyne areas By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
May 12, 2004

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Despite some preventive measures by the Regional Administration of Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) heavy seasonal rainfall over the past two weeks has inundated sections of the region. The rains which continue on a daily basis are taking a toll on the agricultural sector in at least three areas. The areas most affected are Mibicuri, Black Bush Polder, Letter Kenny/Bloomfield and Fyrish/Gibraltar.

Fyrish/Gibraltar has been prone over the years to flooding during the rainy season because it is one of two basins in the region.

According to Regional Chairman Kumkarran Ramdass, prior to the rainy season sluice attendants were instructed to open all sluices round-the-clock to ensure adequate drainage. Apart from this the three main drainage pumps at Joppa, Eversham and Liverpool were activated two Fridays ago.

The chairman explained that when the sluices are closed during the high tides the pumps are activated. Last Friday, Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Satyadeow Sawh, who is also acting Minister of Agriculture, accompanied by Ramdass and other senior regional officials visited some of the affected areas and met with farmers and residents. According to the chairman he has not received any reports of major threats to crops over the past two weeks.

However in the Mibicuri area some 4,000 acres of paddy are yet to be harvested and it is likely that some would be lost to flood waters.

Regional Vice-Chairman Kadim Bacchus visited the area last weekend and reported that there was some amount of flood waters in the rice and residential areas. Some of the inter-lot drains in the residential areas are also clogged and this has contributed to the excess water which has accumulated on the land.

"One of the main difficulties facing farmers is the fact that a number of them cultivated their lands late and are now harvesting in the middle of the rainy season," Ramdass noted. "The situation is further compounded by land preparation being undertaken now by some farmers for the second crop. As a result, these farmers are retaining water on their lands as part of the preparation process, creating additional problems."

The chairman told this newspaper that there is a problem in the Letter Kenny/Bloomfield area with flooding in some residential and cultivation areas. "The problem in this area," he said "was caused by silted outfalls at Letter Kenny and Whim....which is an ongoing dilemma."

A contract was however awarded yesterday for the outfalls to be desilted and according to Ramdass work is expected to commence almost immediately.

Meanwhile, rice farmers in the area have reported losing approximately 100 acres of paddy while cash crop farmers say they have lost some 20 acres of green and ground vegetables to flood waters. According to the Rice Producers' Association (RPA) approximately 14,149 hectares (approx. 34,000 acres) were cultivated in the region.

The third area of concern is Fyrish/Gibraltar where a lot of water has accumulated in the swamp section owing to slow drainage and the area being one of the lowest in the region. The area has been affected by floods every year mainly because of these two factors. Some relief is expected shortly since a drainage pump has been earmarked for the area under the Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP).

However, no reports of flooding have been received from East Bank Berbice, another major agricultural area. This, Ramdass posits, could be the result of some drainage and excavation works executed in the area by the administration prior to the commencement of the rainy season.

Constant use of earthen dams by heavy-duty tractors during the rainy season has left most of them almost inaccessible. As a result, most combine owners have been reluctant to traverse the dams with their machines creating yet another problem for those farmers who still have to harvest paddy on the ground.

Ramdass is urging rice farmers in future to plan early and avoid the problems they now face. "If they do not plant early and in cohesion it is possible that come the next crop they would be unable to use the access dams because of the deplorable state they would be in then," he warned.

Farmers in the Nos. 52-74 NDC area unlike their counterparts in Black Bush Polder have completed harvesting and are now preparing for the second crop. Some 17,000 acres were cultivated in the area and according to an NDC source, harvesting was completed just over one month ago. Farmers in the Nos. 67-74 area have already completed sowing while those in the Nos. 52-66 area are about to commence doing so. Some farmers have however expressed concern that the Manarabisi canal, a main source of irrigation, is clogged with weeds while some drainage canals are also blocked. This, they say, has caused a build-up of water in the cultivation area.

Over the past ten days the region has been experiencing heavy rainfall ranging from as low as 0.1 millimetres on May 7 to as high as 44.3 millimetres on Monday. According to a Meteorological Officer stationed at the Regional Administration Building in New Amsterdam, the region experienced 30 millimetres of rainfall on May 5 and 22.5 on May 8. The Met Office in Georgetown is forecasting a moderately dry day in the region today while tomorrow is expected to be moderately wet with the remainder of the week being wet.

In a related development Community Relations Officer attached to the Office of the President, Faizal Jaffarally informed the media of a planned protest against the flooding by residents yesterday afternoon at the Whim/Bloomfield NDC office. Minister Sawh, he said, was expected to visit the area and meet with the residents. However, Ramdass told this newspaper that he had visited the area yesterday morning and had met with the NDC chairman and residents. During his visit, he said, residents were informed that a contract had been awarded for the desilting of the two outfalls which would alleviate the flooding. He also recalled that the minister had visited the area last Friday and had met with affected residents. He was however unaware of the minister's visit yesterday as indicated by Jaffarally.