Residents of Cotton Field and the township have been flooded out over the past week. Their businesses, cash crops, fowls and animals are all under water because the pumps are not working on schedule at the Anna Regina koker as the operator appears to be spending time in the rice field tending his crop. The internal drains and trenches within the township have been clogged up for almost five years without any maintenance, because the fuel pump of the Anna Regina Town Council backhoe which was bought for $20 million in 1996, was stolen, allegedly by a security officer.
This backhoe is now lying in the council’s compound as a white elephant. For years starting long before the first flood in 2005, floodwaters have damaged taxpayers’ properties, and businesses have suffered losses. Another issue is that the Town Council and the Regional Administration are challenged by a lack of qualified personnel, while the infrastructure is threatened.
There is serious infighting between the Regional Chairman, the Water Users Association and the Interim Management Committee (IMC) as to who should maintain the drainage and undertake the cleaning of the trenches within the township. While the fighting continues, the people are made to suffer. We see the need for high-level, integrated thinking about the issues that will affect us for the next 10 years, with flooding a priority as climate change and global warming are here.
Action must be swift; there is a certain urgency about cleaning the clogged-up trenches and internal drains, because we are facing challenges today that other coastal regions will not face for another 25 or 30 years. Many schools, including the Anna Regina Multilateral, public buildings, churches, community centres, businesses and the Anna Regina markets had to close because of the flash flood. On Friday, November 29, the multilateral school had to be closed at about 4.30 pm, and the students from interior locations, Wakenaam and Bartica were left stranded because the dormitory had to be closed and the kitchen was flooded out. The students had to seek shelter with nearby residents overnight as there were no other arrangements in place for them.
Over the years, the government has made massive investments in the region.
The millions of dollars spent on sea defences, river defences, pumps, drainage and irrigation systems, education, roads and training for RDC, NDC and Town council officers have been invested in order to create favourable conditions for the efficient management of the region. But we the taxpayers have never got real benefits from these investments. What the central government and local government bodies failed to do to avert this flash flood will have lasting consequences and they won’t be able to turn back the clock in terms of losses.