Photos by Anjuli Persaud
With more rainfall expected, residents of the Mahaicony Creek are anticipating being deliberately flooded for a second for the year to relieve the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) and they are awaiting word from government on plans to assist them.
The residents, including farmers, yesterday said that they have made several efforts to meet with Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy but he is never available while Junior Minister Ally Baksh has been asking them to “wait on Parliament.”
In a brief release from the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday afternoon, Baksh said he continues to “support farmers and residents country wide as actions are being taken by the Ministry’s National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) to assist farmers and residents in areas where concerns have been raised about high water levels or flooding.”
The release said that Baksh met with a delegation of rice farmers at his office yesterday morning on the issue of flooding in Handsome Tree, Mahaica. NDIA’s engineers were dispatched to assess the situation.
On Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Dr Ramsammy said that the Ministry has committed to assisting farmers who were hit by flooding. Via the Government Information Agency, he said while a damage assessment of the areas has commenced, government cannot compensate farmers for all their losses. He said relief will be provided in the form of fertilizer, seeds, seedlings and chemicals. By the end of the week, he said the distribution of supplies is expected to commence.
“I know we have already distributed some veterinary supplies in the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary areas…we are trying our best to ensure that every one that was affected benefits from some form of relief,” Minister Ramsammy said, according to GINA.
Bolanauth Deolall said that about five feet of water is in the fields and it is expected to rise as the rain continues to fall. There was heavy rain in the creek yesterday. He also said that they have had some sun after the recent flooding and some farmers have already started to plant again but are expecting to be flooded again if water from the EDWC is released into the Mahaica Creek.
Deolall added that National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) Head Lionel Wordsworth visited them but only promised the government’s machinery to aid rice farmers, leaving the cash crop farmers worrying about their next move.
The residents complained that if the EDWC water is released into the Creek to avoid excessive flooding on the Coast once again, it would be disastrous. Mahendranauth Panday said that the rainfall has increased over the last few days and he is anticipating heavy flooding as the government will sooner or later make the decision to channel excess water into the Mahaica Creek. “Rain fall plenty yesterday and today, the water has not raised much but when they blow the conservancy then we gon get flood and we can manage the rainfall water but if the conservancy is blown again then it will cause we trouble,” he explained.
He added that if Robert Persaud were still the Minister of Agriculture, he would have already visited the creek and kept a public meeting with the residents to determine a strategy to better assist them and ease their worries. Panday said, “From the last flooding, dem nah do nutten to assist we and Robert Persaud usually come visit us but Ramsammy never come talk with people…”
He urged that Minister Ramsammy visit the area and keep a public meeting with the residents, so they can discuss the real problems in the community and work together to find a solution. He added that the meeting is a responsibility that Ramsammy took on when he assumed the ministerial portfolio.
During the Mahaica/Mahaicony flood last month – caused mainly by the release of water from the EDWC – Panday lost four cows valued more than $200,000 and a pond where he reared hassar. Due to the excess water, his pond was covered and all the fish, which he estimated were worth approximately $80,000, escaped. Along with his cows and fish, he lost his entire cash crop farm and is unable to plant because of the rain, he said.
Another farmer, Dubraj (only name given) said that the government has always flooded the Mahaica and Mahaicony Creeks and this time he and other farmers do not want the petty amounts of fertilizers and seedlings that they usually receive. Given the deliberate decision by the government to flood them, he said they must be fully compensated. “Well them ah destroy awe every time. [We] don’t want no fertilizer or feed, we want cash a lot of thing destroy,” he said, while adding that government should know the consequences of its actions and should have been prepared to assist them prior to releasing the water.
The Ministry of Agriculture yesterday advised residents to take the necessary precautions against possible flooding and noted that rainfall in the last 24 hours, from February 28 into February 29, exceeded the amount of rainfall expected for the whole of February for most locations.
The Ministry added that overcast conditions with intermittent rainfall are expected to continue over coastal regions and near inland locations and variable cloudy conditions can be expected over other areas with occasional showers.