– claim NDIA official refused to visit flooded fields
Rice farmers from First Savannah, Mahaicony Creek went to great lengths yesterday to prove their claims of severe losses due to floods, after officials at the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary/Agriculture Development Authority (MMA/ADA) refuted their claims.
The farmers were upset that MMA/ADA officials had accused them of owing over GYD$1 B in rates and taxes, responding that they were never approached on the issue.
Yesterday, the farmers took Kaieteur News up and down the Mahaicony River to visit 16 of the 28 households.
Each farmer occupying the homes alleged that the MMA/ADA had never in the past eight years sent them letters or informed them verbally that they were required to pay rates and taxes, as was indicated.
Yesterday farmers told this publication that when the article about the flooding was published, they received a surprise visit from two officials of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA). They said one of the officials merely took photos of a rice field close to the river. This field was not affected by flood waters and the officials, they said, refused to take the hike some two miles down a dam to inspect the rice fields that were flooded.
Trekking on foot with the farmers, Kaieteur News was shown areas along a main access dam that was breaking away in many places.
This was causing waters to overflow from a badly maintained drainage canal into the rice fields.
Farmers directed Kaieteur News to fields where young rice plants have been covered for days under water, and appeared to have been destroyed.
They also showed rice plants, which were ready for harvesting, which were submerged as well.
To demonstrate the gravity of the situation, one farmer waded into a flooded field and stood in water that was over waist-deep.
The affected farmers said they are more than ready to pay rates and taxes, but opined that it would be unfair to pay taxes for an area that was ignored and had really severe drainage and irrigation issues.
Meanwhile, NDIA’s Seeraj Bagwandat said the NDIA is not to be entirely blamed for the state of things at First Savannah, Mahaicony River. When questioned about their reported failure to actually visit the actual flooded rice fields, he promised to investigate the matter further.
Rice farmers at First Savannah noted that they are desperately trying to save their crops and have been pumping water at their own expense for the past four days.
Farmers related that they have been ignored in the community for over eight years and have been pleading with the MMA/ADA to send an excavator to fix a protective dam that they had left unfinished.
Three rice farmers said that they had to raise over $500,000 to hire a privately owned excavator operator to work in the area.
They said it was only after reports appeared in the press that the NDIA recently sent an excavator, which has been clearing the main drainage canal. However, farmers explained that works ceased over two days ago, since NDIA officials said the excavator ran out of fuel.
They opined that it would take them another week or so to empty the flooded fields entirely.
Farmers informed that through self-help efforts, they have started to patch the dam in several areas where the soil has eroded, and overtopping has occurred.
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