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.
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
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
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!