Flooded Mahaicony farmers clamour for permanent fix

As water released from the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) continued to swamp Mahaicony Creek communities yesterday, farmers called for fair compensation and a permanent solution to prevent the recurring flooding.

Although the coastland experienced minimal rainfall yesterday, the controlled release of water from the EDWC via the Maduni sluice, which began earlier this week, continued to flood areas along the Mahaicony and Mahaica creeks.

Dharamdeo Persaud stands in the flooded bottom of his Gordon Table, Mahaicony Creek home yesterday.

Region Five Chairman Bindrabhan Bisnauth told Stabroek News last evening that the authorities, including the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary-Agricultural Development Association (MMA-ADA) were addressing the situation. He said that excavators were working around the clock in the Mahaicony area, where several outfalls had also been cleaned.

Bisnauth said that the MMA-ADA has been clearing and raising the threatened areas along the dams in the Mahaicony Creek area. He said that the water level continued to rise, and would have an impact on livestock and rice farms along the waterway.

This newspaper visited the area yesterday and residents related that their surroundings have been under several inches of water over the past four days and the water level rose as the day progressed.

L Shrikant, a cattle and rice farmer, stands in floodwater at Mahaicony Creek as he relates losses he suffered.

Gordon Table farmer L Shrikant told Stabroek News from his flooded yard that he lost about 120 acres of month-old rice plants. He said that he invested heavily in the farm within the past few months and the situation was a huge setback, and especially since he suffered similar losses within the first half of last year when the area was also flooded by a release from the conservancy.

Shrikant, who re-migrated from Canada after some 20 years, added that his 200 head of cattle were also threatened. He said that following last year February’s rainfall, the farmers in the area had formed a group and the subsequently met with the Agriculture Ministry officials who had visited the area.

‘Meh friend, last year March following that heavy rainfall and flood which we had, the minister (then Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud) come in here and meet with we and them mek a whole heap of promises,” Shrikant noted. “Day like today, when the same situation playing out all over again, all them promises still deh pon paper,” he added.

A resident of Gordon Table, Mahaicony Creek stands in floodwater as he examines a bunch of plantains which was damaged.

He said that the authorities had promised to raise the dams aback several farming areas as well as to provide the relevant machinery to effect “protective works.” The ministry also promised to implement several initiatives to assist them but farmers only received “couple seed that can’t grow here and a bag fertilizer and some people get a $5,000 seed voucher.”

Shrikant was “fed–up of the situation.” He added, “Me and me brother come back here and we trying to invest in the sector but it ain’t making sense because this ain’t encouraging.”

His brother, who lives in the United States, noted that he had a container filled with mechanical parts at the back of the farm to maintain the machinery the family uses to carry out farm works and he was worried that the parts were under threat from the rising floodwaters.

The Shrikants also noted that when the floodwaters recede, they will have to contend with finding greener areas to graze their cattle while the rice lands will have to be prepared all over again. They said that the government has had almost two decades to improve the situation but has failed to help residents. They felt that the creation of a broad plan with the involvement of all stakeholders, including members of the opposition, needed to be implemented to arrest the situation.

Opposition hopes

Farther up, Dhaniram Persaud, who has been living in the area for more than 46 years, said that he too was still recovering from losses he suffered early last year. This week, he explained, he lost some 800 plantain stalks, which he was depending on to “brace me at least for this first quarter.”

Mahaicony Creek resident Bholonauth Deolall points to his 20 acres of rice plants which were destroyed by floodwater yesterday.

Persaud has been confined to his hammock as he became gravely ill last year. He said yesterday that he and his wife and their sons have lost all hope that the situation will ever improve.

“They saying this Hope Canal will bring relief but people from D&I tell we that it won’t do the work they saying it would do to prevent the situation,” he said, while adding that the population in the area dwindles yearly after floods.

“This thing, we the people of Mahaicony Creek, we think them (government) like thing like a this because them go approach the foreign aid people for money and the money what they getting, believe me, we don’t see a fraction  of it,” the man declared with a worried expression.

He expressed hope that following this year’s budget, the residents will benefit from “some form of compensation because is a government we have now that will have to answer to the opposition.”

Another farmer, Bholonauth Deolall told this newspaper that his cash crops were all destroyed by floodwaters that rose at his farm on Monday morning. He said that some 20 acres of three-week old rice plants, representing an investment of close to $700,000, were also destroyed by the floodwaters. The rice lands have been flooded by conservancy waters which breached the main dam along the rice lands two days ago, he said, adding that he was already counting numerous losses yesterday.

“We only hope now is parliament….and I hoping that with the  opposition having more say in parliament, that something is done for we the residents of Mahaicony Creek,” Deolall said. He pointed out that the situation has been recurring for several years and it is the communities that bear the consequences.

Residents also noted that the MMA dispatched an excavator to raise the dam in the area, which protects the rice farms from the creek, on Wednesday but the machine was stuck in a section of the rice fields yesterday. Several breaches were observed along the dam as water flowed freely into the rice lands, including several farms at Pine Ground, where a number of abandoned houses sat on as much as two feet of water.

A rice farmer at Pine Ground told this newspaper that his tractor-driven water pump had been running continuously over the past four days as he tried desperately to protect his rice farm. The man noted that some 50 acres of land was threatened while he pointed to his neighbour’s rice farm, which was already inundated. “I trying meh best to save my farm because when this dutty, nobody coming in here to compensate me,” the man said, while recalling years of losses to floods.

Rising water

Meantime, hard-hit farmers in the Mahaica Creek were yesterday peeved that no one in authority visited the communities there as the waters rose significantly during the afternoon. Residents reported last evening that the farms which were threatened the day before were covered under inches of water yesterday. An official of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), they said, visited but did not venture into the affected areas. They were also informed that officials from the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) were expected in the area yesterday but at nightfall no one had showed up. Farmers there called on the authorities to discontinue discharging water into the Mahaica Creek, since the rains have eased.

The communities along the Mahaica and Mahaicony creeks have been exposed to floodwater over the past several years whenever water is discharged from the EDWC to ease the level of the water holding facility. The farmers in the areas, who are mainly rice cultivators, have suffered major losses as a result and residents noted yesterday that personnel from the relevant agencies, such as the Health and Agriculture ministries were yet to be seen in their communities.

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