The collapse of the koker at Ithaca, West Coast Berbice, early Tuesday morning could have been avoided had the Region Five administration heeded villagers’ reports that the structure was damaged.
This is according to residents who yesterday met with and complained to Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, that since January they had reported that the structure was damaged. The area has been completely drained and damage was said to be minimal.
At about 03:00 hrs on Tuesday last, the koker at Ithaca broke away causing flooding in that community. A temporary structure has since been put in place and efforts are being made to drain the community.
During a meeting with the Minister at the koker, yesterday, the people said that in March some repairs were conducted.
However, these remedial works were minimal and as such the problem resurfaced shortly afterwards.
Asked by the Minister why immediate action was not taken following the reports, Regional Chairman, Harrinarine Baldeo, said that a contractor was sent to the area but the administration did not examine the completed works.
To compound the situation, residents also pointed out that water from the backlands is draining in the village, adding to the woes.
‘Little irritants, which local government bodies can solve, lead to bigger problems,” Persaud told residents, as he voiced his disapproval in the way the Regional administration handled the reports of the damaged koker.
At present, remedial works are being carried out by the Regional administration and the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary authority.
Speaking with the media, Minister Persaud said that some of the flooding incidents are preventable as all it requires is that persons be more vigilant.
Addressing the situation at Ithaca, he said that while the Regional administration is responsible for the area, the MMA is assisting in providing temporary measures until the new sluice door is completed on Saturday. The new structure will cost some $1.2M.
As more lands are being cultivated, he said, pressure is added to the drainage system. Commenting on the loss of crops and livestock by farmers, Persaud said that the assessments are now being processed, but added that there have not been reports of any wide scale or massive losses.
He said that a programme is being developed to assist those farmers who are severely affected under the ‘Grow More Food’ campaign.
This, he added, is not ‘flood relief’ but a measure to assist farmers that are in flood prone areas. The Ministry had anticipated that given the weather prediction of rainfall being more than 50 percent above normal, there would be disruptions in some areas.
Meanwhile, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority has given the Region Four administration $1M to assist in the purchasing fuel for its pumps, given the need for more pumping hours due to on-going rain.
Farmers, who are also using their personal pumps to drain accumulated water, will be assisted with fuel.
An area of concern that was raised yesterday was the prolonged accumulation of floodwaters in several East Coast communities including Dazzell Housing Coop Scheme, Bachelor’s Adventure, Bee Hive and Ann’s Grove.
Yesterday, with additional pumps and excavation work by the NDIA, residents reported that the water was receding quickly.
Many vented their frustration at the Buxton/Foulis NDC for sealing off the top of a dam, which led to water inundating their communities.
Residents queried why the NDCs were not as vigilant to ensure that community drainage was sufficient given the fact that the Hydromet department had issued a call for increased preparedness. Several related that the heavy rains brought waters into their yards.
Rainfall recorded in those communities was one of the highest, according to officials. Very visible in those communities were huge piles of garbage and other refuse at the mouth of canals and even the roadways.
Local authorities continue to complain about blockage of drains due to persons dumping garbage.
Only recently, Persaud had said that it is most distressing to see garbage and other refuse being dumped in drains and waterways around the country, noting that there is need for behavior change in society.
During his visit to the housing scheme yesterday, Persaud spoke with several residents taking suggestion of possible remedy to ease the situation in the area. Several residents also expressed appreciation for the installation of two pumps in the Paradise area to expedite drainage.
Persaud said that one of the pumps located behind the old RDC office in Paradise will remain there permanently.
Livestock farmers in Dazzell Housing Scheme have also requested that the Ministry assist them in finding market for their poultry products as the floodwaters have hampered their daily operations significantly.
As such a marketing officer from the Guyana Marketing Corporation was sent to the area yesterday.
Meanwhile, the authorities continue to monitor the situation closely and are taking steps to ensure more drainage capacity as the country braces for a long and intense rainy season, which pattern could be similar to 2005.
Minister Persaud, however, noted that since 2005 many investments have been made and with the state of alertness, the agencies are in a better position to deal with the onslaught of the rains on Guyana’s coast.
He warned that accumulation of water and even flash flooding cannot be avoided given that Guyana is below sea level, coupled with the limited capacity of the country’s drainage system. (Tusika Martin)
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