Hague irrigation canals not cleaned on a timely basis

Dear Editor,

I am a 78-year-old rice farmer of Hague Settlement on the West Coast of Demerara. This area is immediately west of Den Amstel/Fellowship, a rice and ground provision cultivation community. There is also a functioning water users association (WUA), which is mandated to give impartial services to all legitimate rice farmers in Hague Settlement, Fellowship, Den Amstel and Blankenburg. The constitution of this organization is very clear on such services, but in recent times there has been a deviation from optimal services.

I need answers urgently from Mr Shiv Sankar, the national coordinator of all WUAs and Mr George Nedd, the Hague-Blankenburg WUA Chairman. Can these two gentlemen tell me why Hague Settlement primary irrigation and drainage canals are not cleaned on a timely basis, and why these canals are left uncleaned for as long as two and three months at a time? Is it true that when cleaners undertake to clean a canal which has not been cleaned for three months they are only offered two months’ pay ‒ take it or leave it? At this present time, we have rice that is in the prime of bearing and at different stages of maturity, and our eastern irrigation canal has not been cleaned for the past three months; our crops survived because of constant rainfall.

Mr Sankar is the people’s servant and is paid to oversee Mr Nedd; he has been duly elected to serve voluntarily on the people’s behalf, and must at no time be seen as self-serving. A crisis is now looming because the very high ideals of self-administration, as in water users’ associations have been compromised because of self aggrandisement and manipulation. Rice farmers are intelligent, sober, and very hard-working people, quite unlike the misconception about our fore-parents, we are academically educated rice farmers at varying levels.

If Mr Sankar sits in his office and relies on second and third hand information to do his job, it will never happen in the right and proper manner.  He has to come out, meet with the farmers and hear directly from them; this is how WUAs work is done in the countries of the Far East. Reports written under such circumstances are always authentic.

I faithfully pay my water users’ association rates to the Hague/Blankenburg WUA every year, and so do almost all rice farmers in Hague Settlement. This is revenue that was meant to defray the cost of the monthly maintenance of all waterways. But how much of this money is spent on services to the farmers of Hague Settlement? So, we are short changed once again. As I have written before, I’m prepared to speak at any forum, and give testimonies anywhere.

I implore the WUA national coordinator to pay an official visit to Den Amstel and Fellowship, and then simultaneously to do the same in Hague Settlement and observe each area keenly, and I am sure your better judgment and the uncompromising truth will reveal who gets the better part of the revenues collected.

On the issue of WUA’s elected officials, what is the criterion in respect of the duration of their time in office and whose responsibility is it to say time up, new elections? Is this the call of the national coordinator, or that of the farmers? As I see it, some WUA chairpersons prefer to go on and on indefinitely holding on to their positions.

I hope the disclosures in my letter will attract the attention of all relevant government agencies and that they will take appropriate action.

I am sending a clarion-call to our auditor general to audit the books of every water users’ association country-wide. They are allocated supplementary funding in the form of taxpayers’ money.

Let service be given to all for the benefit of all.

Yours faithfully,

Ganga Persaud

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