Swamped Mahaicony Creek farmers pleaded with the authorities for help yesterday even as they battled floodwaters and continue to lose their cash crops, livestock and rice as water levels remain stubbornly high.
Several farmers complained to Stabroek News during a visit to communities along the Mahaicony Creek yesterday that the Pine Ground pump used to drain the land is not working effectively and the authorities are not responsive to their pleas. Several villages in Region Five have endured flooding over the past week but having been swamped over the past month, the situation in the Mahaicony Creek has worsened over the past few days.
During this newspaper’s visit yesterday, it was observed that floodwaters had covered large swathes of land including most of the residents’ bottom flats. Boats that would normally be docked several feet away in the creek were tied under the house due to the floodwaters. Water reached halfway up some trees that were several feet tall. Pens were inundated and animals had to be taken to higher ground. Residents were forced to stay indoors and could not do their everyday chores.
Even though there is a pump at Pine Ground, Mahaicony Creek, residents complained that it did not work frequently.
“This thing ain’t good at all, partner. When they put on the pump one day you gotto wait ten more days for it to wuk back and it can’t work so. With all this water that coming from the rain, is a waste of money that they got it even working one time because the water gon build up back,” Susankar Seedyal, a resident of Pine Ground, told Stabroek News yesterday.
Seedyal, along with other cash crop and rice farmers lamented the working hours of the pump. “They [pump operators] always telling you about they ain’t got oil to work the pump and always stopping it but when they pump for one day and the rain fall for one hour, the water ah go back up high so it nah mek sense,” he said.
The farmer added that whenever they try to contact persons from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) or the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary-Agriculture Development Authority (MMA-ADA) they would usually be given a royal run around. “You gotto make about 2000 phone calls and then you gon get answer from them. They gonna tell you today they gonna pump the water and then you will have to wait about three days. When you call this one, he seh the other one tek over. When you call Charles [Head of MMA-ADA Aubrey Charles] he seh call another man and when you call he, you getting the same thing over and over. Is best we use the money to call these man to buy diesel,” the frustrated farmer said.
One of the farmers stated that the pump would be working 24/7 during the El Nino period and questioned why the authorities could not get it running for several days in a row during the flood. “It does look like they only care about the road man [farmers farthest away from the Creek] and not about the creek man cause we flooding bad here,” he said.
In addition to the pump not working effectively, the farmers pointed out that there are several areas where there were breakages in the creek dam that needed to be “tied” and even though an excavator was sent to assist with this, it has not worked consistently over the past few weeks. “Right now they got a koker leaking and bringing water into the system and they won’t fix it. They got it [the excavator] there whole month and they always getting some problem. Watch, it come last week and move about couple metres and it bruk down again. Every week is the same thing, you want it to tie the dam dem but it can’t even move,” Seedyal said.
Because of the floodwaters, the dams leading to the rice farms are in a deplorable condition and it is difficult for other vehicles apart from tractors to traverse.
Ready to reap
Jageshwar Gobin, a rice farmer who has been farming for five seasons, explained that he has 60 acres of rice ready to reap but cannot since it is impossible for the combine to move through the dam. “It ready since three weeks ago and it deh pon spoil stage right now and got about a week more,” Gobin said. He lamented that if he does not get his combine into his rice field within the next week, he will lose over $4 million and considering the debts he already owes, it would be extremely difficult for him to plant in the next season.
“I already owe over $4 million with this tractor and fertilizer and all of that and I thought I woulda get to reap early this season but now I meet disaster,” the distraught man told Stabroek News. He explained that the road could be fixed if the excavator was in working condition. “All they need is the excavator to come and dig the sap from the dam and add some hard material and it gon be passable for people,” Gobin said.
When Stabroek News was in the area, one farmer’s vehicle got stuck in the mud and several other farmers and a tractor was needed to get it out. About five farmers spent over 30 minutes in the thick mud trying to extricate the two vehicles.
Another rice farmer Pabunauth (only name given), explained that so far, at least 40 acres of his rice crop has died and another 20 acres are on the verge of dying. “I came from Florida and I gotto keep going back and bringing back money to invest cause something always happening with the flooding. It don’t make sense you know. They going there and telling you to come back and invest but this is what you coming back to,” he said.
While Seedyal has only lost about 10 acres of rice, he has lost a range of cash crops, fish and livestock. The devastated man explained that the last time he was flooded was a year ago. At the time, he had related to Stabroek News that he had lost all his cash crops and pond of fish. A year later and he is in the same situation and he has lost over 4000 hassar, 40 chickens and cash crops consisting of ochro, pumpkin and banana, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“You can’t even carry them on the dam because the alligators gonna eat them out and all ah them things, look where the chicken them deh looking sick, sick,” he said, pointing to some of his chickens around and in one of his trees.
Seedyal and most of the farmers have accepted that blame should not laid on the government but they were critical of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and MMA-ADA officials and are calling on government to replace them. “I ain’t afraid to say this but is the workers. Dem man there since the PPP and now the same man dem deh with the APNU+AFC and is the same thing happening. You calling dem man and they don’t care. They just sitting in the office and don’t care about the people. It real stressful, brother. This is nah the government fault, is the workers and the whole system gotto change or we gonna suffer all the time,” he said.
Another farmer from the Bara Bara area explained that he has lost over 60 ducks and fowls so far and one of the main reasons for the flooding is because the creek is clogged with vegetation. He explained that years before, the authorities would often spray the grasses to kill them but this has not been done in a while.
“Half of the creek block up right now and the water is not flowing properly and that is one of the main reasons why all of this is happening,” he said, while adding that this is a recurring situation but the authorities wait until there are disasters to act and they should change their attitude and approach.
“My mother used to tell me that prevention is better than cure and I have lived by that and will live by it for the rest of my life and I feel these people don’t understand what that means. They had whole dry season when they didn’t have water to do all of the cleaning and ensure that all of the pumps are working and all of the kokers were fine but they wait until there is a problem to address it,” the man declared.
He said that the NDIA and MMA-ADA need to be urgently reevaluated and their administrative systems need to change if persons are to see change around the country. “It’s not just us, I read in the papers every day about things happening around the country every wet and dry season and the only thing that echoes back at me is the drainage issues and who is in charge of that? The NDIA and MMA,” he said.
Some of the residents who had built their yards up and did not suffer from the flooding, related that they once went through the same issues and had to build their yards up to prevent it from happening again.
Several residents complained that no one in authority has visited the area. “Nobody (except) you come and visit we since this thing started and is like they don’t care about us you know. No body at all, no Minister, no head of anything. They got three man from MMA does deh driving the boat up and down the creek and don’t even come and visit any of us,” Seedyal said.
Stabroek News tried to contact NDIA head Frederick Flatts and MMA-ADA head Aubrey Charles to ask why the pump was not working continuously and about the condition of the excavator but both of their phones went unanswered.