Abnormal tides and waves have caused flooding and erosion at Almond Beach, North West District, posing a threat to livelihoods and the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) is engaging the authorities to have around 20 residents relocated to higher ground.
“Right now, we at the RDC are trying to have the people relocated to safer grounds because the area is very risky and dangerous for the people,” Brentnol Ashley, Chairman of the Region 1 RDC told Stabroek News yesterday in a telephone interview.
On Friday last, the Barima/Waini community began to experience flash flooding as a result of high waves. Ashley told Stabroek News that on Friday the water level was up to waist height but when he visited on Saturday, the water level had reduced significantly. He said the water later dropped to knee height but residents were fearful the level would rise when the high tides returned.
“They are currently experiencing abnormal rise in tides and abnormal waves which is why they are flooded. This community is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Also from what we understand it is a natural cycle taking place. Every 25-30 years the beach changes. It erodes and builds somewhere else, so it looks as if that is happening here”, Ashley said. He noted that his prime concern is the safety of the people.
He said that in the past some families moved because of the situation. However others opted to stay “because of their farms and they depend on that for their livelihood.”
“We have to get them relocated and have started the discussions. I have engaged the Protected Areas Commission, there are some lands close to Shell Beach, so we have ask the commission to allow them to reside there,” the chairman said.
He added that the council has been discussing long-term plans to use some lands in Mabaruma and in the Waini area to relocate the score of residents.
However, he said that drainage and irrigation works would be needed in those areas before they can be occupied.
‘The Region is looking on a long term and while we move them we don’t want to take them away from what they are accustomed to,” explained Ashley.
He said residents have earmarked a part of the beach which has been built up to relocate to but he believes that area should be a temporary location.
He went on to explain that last November he visited the community which is situated close to the famous Shell Beach and observed sections of the community eroding. He noted that the erosion is taking place rapidly, pointing out that when he visited on Saturday the situation was worse.
Due to the erosion he said approximately 900 coconut trees were lost. The coconut trees are a part of the community’s livelihood.
The Chairman went on to say that due to the erosion and flash flooding, compounded by heavy winds, a family lost their home after it fell. The family is currently housed at the community health hut until “they can get some help to rebuild.”
Ashley added that the region is in contact with the Civil Defence Commission and is putting systems in place to assist residents in case of an emergency.
He noted that they have allocated emergency fuel for the residents in case the need arises for them to be evacuated.
The chairman also said that regional health officials are setting up a team with supplies to treat any disease outbreak. “It is a small group and we want to be prepared and be able to offer immediate help,” Ashley said.
The school in the community has been closed until the floodwaters recede.