Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Hope Canal 2
(Aired 7 May 2009)

   On Tuesday 28th April 2007 I was asked to meet the residents of Doch Fore, Two Friends, Hope/Lowlands and Ann's Grove and listen to their concerns about the proposed high level Lama relief Canal which will run through their villages on the East Coast Demerara.

 

  I believe that their concerns are real; after all ladies and Gentlemen this government does not have a good record of maintaining national infrastructure especially on the East Coast in Region 4.

 

    What they will have running through their villages is a high level relief from the Conservancy between 40 -100 feet wide which would be at least 7-10 feet higher than the land on which their houses are built and higher than the sea wall which keeps the Atlantic from flooding their homes.

 

  At the time of my visit the water in the side lines i.e. the drainage canals was just a little over one foot lower than their land level, on enquiring why this was so I was told that the Greenfield sluice and outfall channel were not operational and that in addition the Mahaica Sluice was also not operational.

 

    These people are therefore at this moment completely without access to any drainage structures apart from the pumps which are only turned on during the rainy season; I have already expressed my opinion on the inefficiency of these pumps to drain the area they are required to drain and to add to my concerns I was informed at this meeting that during the most intense periods of flood, the pumps are not working since the diesel fuel cannot be delivered to them at their current locations along the coast, to any rational person with a functioning brain cell this would appear to be a completely unacceptable situation.

 

   The Constitution of this country states clearly at article 71. (1)  that "Local government is a vital aspect of socialist democracy and shall be organized so as to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live"

 

  Article 74. (1) Tells us that "It shall be the primary duty of local democratic organs to ensure in accordance with law the efficient management and development of their areas and to provide leadership by example"

 

   Article 74 (2) tells us that "Local democratic organs shall organize popular co-operation in respect of the political, economic, cultural and social life of their areas and shall co-operate with the social organizations of the working people"

 

   Here before me at this meeting were the people from 5 villages on the East Coast who are genuinely afraid that their property is in danger of being destroyed, most of them who were farmers have already stopped farming since they have lost enough of their crops since 2004 through neglected infrastructure to be totally disinterested in any further farming. Of the group of about 30 people I met at least half were Indo Guyanese.

 

     The people of these 5 villages have documented their situation very well they have a protest which is signed by 258 residents in which state that the CEO of the National Drainage and irrigation Authority [NDIA] had published a letter in the three most popular daily newspapers the Stabroek, the Kaiteur and the Chronicle on April 2nd 2009 in which he stated that bids for designing a new Hope Canal was advertised between January 7th and January 27th 2009.but in contravention of the constitution he only informed the residents on the 7th February 2009. now ladies and gentlemen let me remind you that this is still a democracy and there are certain specific rights and privileges enshrined in to protect our people so this was an act of arrogance which was fundamentally contrary to specific provisions of the constitutions i.e. to inform the residents only after the bids were in and probably only in response to a public outcry from them.

  

   On that date 7th February 2009 they were shown how the canal would run through the East Coast and that only one row of houses would be affected as the canal would be 150 ft wide, this project is such a national secret that when I approached engineers at GAPE none of them knew that the proposed Canal would be that wide.

 

   Apparently an offer of 40 million dollars compensation was made to the owners of the one row of houses at Hope which will be have to be displaced to build this Canal; that's fine but if they take the 40 million dollars to be relocated, this is not longer their problem, but those who are left behind do not see that this high level canal which would have to be higher than the sea wall passing through what has to be the lowest part of the East Coast where they live will be a massive problem for them, given the poor track record of this government and that in time they would be flooded if it is not properly maintained and operated.

  

   The residents in their letter of protest, which I remind you has over 250 signatures, allege that they were called to a meeting on 23rd March 2009 at the forestry department where they were told that farmers from Mahaica creek who were being continuously flooded out when the existing Lama relief structures located at the eastern end of the conservancy which have existed since colonial times, but which cannot now be used now due to a massive blockage of the Mahaica river at Cane Grove will have to be relocated to Hope village in small houses provided by food for the poor. Ladies and gentlemen when one hears these things one is forced to ask one's self what the hell is going on?

 

  The letter from the residents of the 5 villages inform us that there were some farmers occupying the flood plain along the banks of the Mahaica river and when the Lama conservancy relief structures are open at Maduni and at Lama these farmers were continuously flooded out, why the Mahaica river has become so silted up and blocked at around the Cane Grove area that it is no longer tidal i.e. it does not rise or fall with the tide; let me remind the public that at Bartica 38 miles up the Essequibo river the water there is tidal but the Mahaica River is no longer tidal less than 9 miles from the mouth of the river. So here is a river which has existed before Columbus discovered the new world which is now complete blocked up due to neglect and stupidity.  

 

   The residents of the 5 villages are asking, as I did in my previous commentary, that all the alternatives of relieving the high conservancy level be examined before we commence doing a feasibility study as to how we will build this Hope relief canal. I myself am convinced, having spoken to some of the engineers at Guyana Association of Professional Engineers who incidentally informed me that the highly qualified Mr. Malcom Ali shares my view that this problem can be solved at a far less cost by dredging out the Mahaica river and building 5-- 8 ft wide Kokers instead of the ineffective 40 ft wide weir now located at Land of Canaan. These are the opinions of highly qualified and expe3rienced hydraulic engineers, and not some non specialized engineer in Hydraulics with little or no experience.

  

 Finally Ladies and Gentlemen incredibly this letter signed by 250 of our poor brothers and sisters who prompted by fear that the little thy have remaining after years of flooding and damage from the poor drainage system they have been given by the PPP, perceive that they will now be put in further danger with this new high level canal so out of genuine concern they wrote their letter and they copied it to the following 21 organizations; 1. Canadian High Commissioner; 2. The British High Commissioner; 3. The European Union; 4. the US Embassy; 5. The Indian High Commission; 6. Mr. Carrington at Caricom; 7. The Chairman of the NDIA; 8. Minister of Agriculture; 9.Guyana Lands and survey's commission; 10. UNDP; 11.World Bank; 12. GHRA; 13. East Coast Demerara clean up committee; 14 Guyana times; 15.HBTV CH 9; 16 Chronicle; 17 Kaiteur News; 18 VCT 28; 19 C.N Sharma; 20 NCN CH 11; 21, WRHM CH 7.  

 

  Apart from a spotty response from the media, including I am sad to say my own evening news NOT ONE of the other organizations even acknowledged receiving this communication from these poor people, even if it was to say "thank you for telling us about your problem, we are very sorry that you are so troubled but there is not much we can do since it is not within our mandate, however if an opportunity presents itself we will try to bring your sad situation to the powers that be, but no promises"

    Ladies and Gentlemen I would have been satisfied with that, but these organizations did not respond at all, and that is wrong!