Carelessness leaves Craig families in river flood

Blame was laid against employees attached to a construction firm currently working on a section of the sea-defence aback of Craig village on the East Bank of Demerara yesterday afternoon after water swamped several yards in the area.

And residents of the community were last evening preparing for the worst as a spring tide which is currently in effect may impact heavily on the already problematic sea-defence there.

According to the Warren family, around 2:30 yesterday afternoon,  they observed water from the nearby Demerara River gushing through a small “passage” in the sea-defence which  other residents stated was “carelessly” left open by workers attached to the M&B Construction firm. The company was recently awarded a $64M contract to undertake controversial revetment works to the area.

The family stated that water began to gush through the small passage and eventually many backyards were swamped as persons began to make familiar arrangements to place household articles and other valuables on higher ground.

Members of another family nearby told Stabroek News that refuse began to float into their yards in addition to carcasses of animals and residents stated that  the water from the nearby river usually carries a strong stench and dangerous insects would remain in their yards when the water  recedes.
When this newspaper arrived at the scene sometime around 4 pm yesterday the tide in the Demerara River was falling and the water in the flooded yards was receding slowly.

On a dam aback the village, where the company is undertaking works, workers stood aimlessly as residents gathered and pondered their next move. A trucker, who told Stabroek News that he lost   thousands of dollars in equipment and spare parts over the years, the result of breaches in the sea defence, noted that yesterday’s event was in the making.

A resident stands close to his flooded yard as the water level began to recede yesterday afternoon at Craig.

He explained that residents in the area had facilitated the contractor and his workers by allowing access through a yard for machinery to reach the area where works are being undertaken. The works included the filling of a trench which runs parallel to the river bank, following which the actual revetment works would be undertaken.

Another resident noted that since the company started working in the area less than two months ago, “dem only place sandbags here and now them trying to prepare for the spring tide”. A worker attached to the firm told Stabroek News that the company is “experiencing problems” in accessing an area aback the Haag Bosch landfill site at Eccles also on the EBD for mud to fill the trench close to the sea-defence at Craig.

He could not say how much work has been completed in the area to date, but residents told this newspaper that works are far from being complete, adding that initially the excavator being used by the firm was inoperable and its engine was subsequently replaced. They also stated that the sum recently allocated for the project may be inadequate, given the amount of work slated for completion.

Water from the nearby Demerara River gushing through a breach in the sea-defence aback Craig on the East Bank of Demerara yesterday afternoon.

The residents noted that when Transport Minister Robeson Benn visited the area when it was flooded following spring tides early in September, he stated that the affected persons may have to relocate from Craig. “Imagine we live here for years …support this government and now them want we move because of this failing sea-defnce”, an angry resident stated.

Cabinet recently gave the go-ahead to the $64M contract for timber revetment works to be effected to the area and the company has been backfilling the affected area, which is close to 300M in length. Goverment engineer Walter Willis told this newspaper  that clay from another source was being sourced to fill the area. Questions have been raised about whether the revetment will improve the situation.

Several engineers have voiced their views on the situation at Craig; engineer Malcolm Ali had addressed the issue on a number of occasions in the letter columns of this newspaper and he told Stabroek News recently that work on the area has and will cost the authorities huge sums to address.

In a recent letter Ali noted that in the 1960s there was some overtopping of the river dam at Craig and at Friendship which the Hydraulics Division monitored but since the Demerara Harbour Bridge was built in 1978 the problem of overtopping has become more acute, causing flooding and hardship to residents along the East Bank from Georgetown up to Friendship and beyond.

An excavator which was undertaking works prior to yesterday’s breach in the sea defence at Craig, parked on a vacant house lot made available by residents for works to be effected to the sea-defence.

Another engineer, who has overseen many aspects of public infrastructure over the years, told Stabroek News recently on the condition of anonymity that the Craig area, which has experienced flooding at almost each spring tide in recent times, will remain susceptible to the Demerara River given the geographical layout of the river.

He said that the main problem affecting the river is erosion and he posited too that with the river having several winding turns, it is unclear what could be done at this point by the authorities to adequately address the problem. He noted that in the vicinity of Land of Canaan, and Patentia, villages positioned on the left and right banks of the Demerara River respectively, there  is an ‘S’ turn in the river’s layout, a feature which he noted is the main cause of a build up  of siltation in the river.

Siltation of the river in question has been an issue which has bothered the authorities over the years as it has proved to be expensive to address; the authorities utilize the motor vessel (dredge), Steve N, to dredge the river bed each year.

But the expert noted that the flow of water down the Demerara River out into the Atlantic has the potential to cause silt to build up at the turns along the  river, with the ‘S’ turn being a key factor.

\He explained that water flows at a constant velocity down the river and as the water approaches features which may cause its speed to slow down, silt is deposited at the points where friction is experienced most. He said that as the water continues on its way after passing the frictional bends, it may carry silt along  and as the  pattern continues  silt will build up along the waterway.

Residents were last evening mulling protest action in the form of blocking the main EBD public road passing through the community, one man noting that the community has “suffered as a result of a lack of proper analysis of the problem here at Craig”.
Others noted that the spring tide currently in effect may bring dire consequences to the community.

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