Residents of Canal Number One, West Bank Demerara say the flooding they are experiencing is a direct result of the main drainage canal not being cleaned in preparation for the rainy season.
Stabroek News was told that the contractor who was tasked with clearing the canal ceased operations over non-payments.
Jacoba Constantia-Conservancy Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) Chairman Dhanraj Bipath, yesterday explained that the annual contract for the cleaning of the canal was not awarded to the contractor for this year. Bipath said he was carrying out works on a bi-monthly basis and the contractor had started cleaning the canal in November but stopped after he was not receiving payments. The canal is maintained by the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and not his NDC he stated. Stabroek News was unable to contact the NDIA for a response.
“It is because there wasn’t regular maintenance we are in this situation today. After we noticed the water was being accumulated in yards we had to start self-help work on Christmas Day and the next day because nowhere was open to offer us help,” the NDC chairman explained.
An excavator has since been deployed and is currently removing moss from the canal, to allow for the water to be drained off. One resident told this newspaper that the moss in the water grows rapidly and as a result constant maintenance is important.
“This polder here is a farming one so what you would notice is the moss growing at a faster rate because of the fertilizers being used by the farmers,” the resident explained.
Despite this, Bipath said that the current section of canal that is inundated would be the last to receive relief, since it is at the lower end of the community.
Yesterday, the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) revisited the community and handed out 200 sanitation hampers to residents. The CDC had visited the community on Thursday to assess the situation.
The Water Users Association of Canals Polder to Goodland and Minister of State Joseph Harmon were also a part of the distribution exercise and gained a firsthand look at what was happening on the ground.
He, too, noted that the flooding resulted from the canal not being cleared and maintained in preparation for the rainy season. “The koker is working well. The pumps are working well; it’s a question of keeping the canals clean. As you come in from the front all the way down you’ll see that the canal is … very clean, but we have to keep it clean and we have to have in place a system that ensures that the canal is kept clean and that is what we’re working on at the level of the NDIA, the Region, the NDC and the Civil Defence Commission,” he said.
The National Emergency Monitoring system operating under the umbrella of the CDC, Harmon said is working 24 hours a day and has been filtering reports to them on affected areas.
He added that they would be visiting other affected areas and offering similar assistance. However, he noted that they have been monitoring and will continue to monitor areas that are accustomed to flooding on the coastal belt.
He added that the government, over the past year, has spent a “tremendous amount of money on public infrastructure such as drainage and they are reaping the benefits of it now.
“In particular Georgetown, with all of this rain in years gone by, the place would have been flooded, the people would have been losing their products, now it is drained better, we have spent some money on the East Coast and it is not as affected as it used to be,” Harmon asserted.
After a week of continuous rainfall, some residents who are farmers have recorded losses of crops and residents are forced to stay indoors as their yards are swamped.
Residents yesterday told Stabroek News that this is the worst flood they have experienced since the 2005 flooding.
As Stabroek News walked through the community yesterday some residents were observed using sandbags to keep the water out from their dwellings while others had their protective gear with them as they moved about. The water level is about shin high and based on residents’ recounting it seems to be slowly rising. Some residents were also seen in boats and on bridges using their farming tools to help in clearing the canal.
Rajpaul Haimraj, a pineapple farmer told Stabroek News while he has not suffered any losses at his home his farm in the backdam is covered with floodwater. He noted that he would not be able to reap that crop of pineapple which took 18 months to produce. He explained that this is the first time inches of water has passed his bridge and approached the bottom flat of his home. He believes more needs to be done to assist residents with the drainage.
Over at the home of Geeranie Parbhudyal, she said her family members have to take turns to help “bail out the water. If we don’t do it the kitchen would flood.” She explained that if the water reaches into her kitchen her appliances would be damaged. According to the woman although they placed sandbags around her home the water is still seeping in and she has to keep mopping the area.
It was reported by the Department of Public Information (DPI) that there is no outbreak of water-borne diseases but the Ministry of Public Health has been monitoring the situation in the region.
“A team from the Ministry of Public Health visited the Manram Memorial Health Centre, in Canal Number One, to ensure it is equipped with the necessary drugs in the case of a possible outbreak and to prevent flood-related illnesses,” DPI said in its report.