Pot-holed roads and weak sea defences are two major issues which residents of the Essequibo River island of Leguan face daily and persons there are calling on the administration to adequately address the issues.
During a visit to the island on Thursday, residents told Stabroek News that the island, which has seen a drop in its population, due mainly to the unavailability of jobs, will in time be swamped by the Atlantic Ocean given recent experiences during spring tides.
Most of the areas which are usually affected by deteriorating weather lie on the outskirts of Leguan but with limited options in terms of drainage and irrigation, it was noted that heavy intake of water leaves the island vulnerable to flooding.
Residents in the Canefield area, which is located along the main public road
at the eastern tip of the island often face difficult times during spring tides and heavy downpours and it was noted that the sea defences there are often breached.
A farmer at Canefield who asked not to be named told this newspaper that there had been proposals in the past to place groynes (sea-defence structures that project into the ocean) along the foreshore but he noted that this did not materialise.
It was observed on Thursday that most of the dwellings on the eastern section of the island lie close to the main road and with no drainage outlets, many households are often under threat from the nearby Atlantic seas.
The villages of Success and Henrietta which lie along the southwestern tip of Leguan are often underwater and during a trip along the foreshore aback the villages in question, it was observed that recent sea defence work done in the area was slipping into the surrounding waters.
Henrietta resident Rockwell (only name given) told Stabroek News that he has experienced numerous periods of flooding while living at the village in question. He said that rip-rap works done on a part of the sea defence by construction company BK International several years ago was done “up to standard” but he noted that nearby works undertaken within the past year by another company have proved ineffective, most of the boulders placed at the edge of the land mass have slipped, leaving the island exposed.
Several sandbags close to the affected area have been pushed inland, an indication of the force at which the water hits the island during spring tides.
Rockwell noted that in a matter of time, Henrietta residents may face catastrophic events given recent experiences during spring tides and he said that many persons will be reluctant to relocate from the area since many depend on their farmlands for a living.
He reiterated that more concrete sea defence works needed to be undertaken to protect the affected villages on the island from the surrounding waters.
Last July, a $213M contract was signed in the presence of Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud and officials of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) for the construction of a drainage sluice at Waterloo, Leguan and the rehabilitation of other such structures across the Coastland. This was done after Persaud met with farmers on the island and following the visit, a decision was taken to include the project in the NDIA 2009 capital works programme.
The structure at Waterloo remains incomplete and residents in the area noted that work had stopped and that the structure appears to “hang in the balance”. In a release issued last year, the Agriculture Ministry stated that the NDIA had planned to improve the drainage system for 2,800 acres of farmland at Waterloo.
Meanwhile, the roads on the island have continued to be a main area of concern and according to the residents, in time motorists will be forced to stop travelling to sections of Leguan. One minibus operator told this newspaper on Thursday that he has already decided not to venture into certain areas around the island since he has had to spend thousands of dollars effecting repairs to his minibus.
Long Road, one of the three main roads at Leguan was upgraded in recent times but motorists told this newspaper that works to the area were not done up to standard. It was along that road where two young men perished following a vehicular accident last weekend, but persons noted that the condition of the road coupled with the driving errors contributed to the men’s demise.
Mohammed Hannif, a farmer of the village of Success, told this newspaper
that the roads at Leguan have been in a treacherous state for most of the last decade, and he noted that the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) on the island has displayed a “lax” attitude towards upgrading the roads. Efforts to obtain a comment from RDC Chairman Durga Persaud on Friday were futile as he was said to be off the island.
Haniff said that a contractor was recently paid some $10M to carry out works to the main roads on the island but he noted that, “all the company do was dig up the road and leff it”. Another motorist noted that several loads of stones, which are currently in front of the RDC building at Enterprise were to be utilized for road works. However, there had been no word from the authorities on when works will be undertaken.
At the moment, cost of travel around Leguan is expensive and as the condition of the island’s roads deteriorates, residents on the island expressed hope that the relevant authorities will pay a listening ear to the issue, noting that plans for the construction of an airstrip there should be shelved as the project was not a priority.
Tenders were recently advertised in sections of the media for construction of the airfield but this newspaper understands that the land which is being examined for the project remains a disputed issue. It was noted on Friday that the area where the 2000-ft planned project is situated, will block access to several acres of farmland of residents and at the same time, wind direction remains a central factor, as aircraft generally land and take off into the wind while the geographic layout of the present location differs.
Surveys were recently undertaken at the location along ‘Long Road’ for the infrastructure and Regional Chairman Julius Faerber told this newspaper recently that land is still being sourced for the project.
The authorities in this year’s budget allocated some $149M for construction of the airstrip at Leguan and Wakenaam as well as maintenance of similar structures across the country including the Kamarang airstrip. The $54.5M project at Wakenaam remains incomplete to date, more than five months after the scheduled completion date.