Rupununi farmers now assessing damage

Region 9 flood woes

…almost all farms in North and South destroyed

By Lakeram Bhagirat

Several Toshaos in the Rupununi area are reporting that most of the village farms have been destroyed and they are worried about the economic implications it will have on the villages. Meanwhile, the water continues to rise in the North Rupununi area, cutting off access to some villages.

The villages of Moco Moco (Central); Parikwarenawau (South); Aishalton (Deep South); Kumu (Central) and Karaudarnauwau (Deep South) have reported that the

A section of a washed-away road in the Region

floodwaters destroyed their plantain and cassava farms.

At the beginning of the month, several communities in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) have come under water owing to heavy rainfall in the areas as well as in neighbouring Brazil. As a result, the Takutu and Rupununi Rivers overtopped their banks cutting off access from Lethem to several of the remote villages. Over 40 households, from the Tabatinga, Culvert City, St Ignatius and Lethem areas had to be evacuated due to the high water level.

The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) continues to monitor the situation. The preparedness and response manager of CDC, Major Shawn Welcome has been deployed to the Region to guide and give technical support to the regional bodies. The CDC has since taken sanitary flood relief items in for the flood victims – bleach, mops, and disinfectants.

Regional Chairman Brian Allicock said the water in Central Rupununi continued to recede rapidly. However, in North and South Rupununi, it is rising and falling rapidly. “The water is coming back because the rain is falling in Aishalton and you

The flooded Takutu River

can’t cross the Rupununi; the creeks are already up. Access is cut off in some areas and the water had risen two feet in some areas,” Allicock related.

He explained that the roads in some parts were washed away and they were expecting more to follow suit. Allicock said that Massara and Yakarinta villages were completely covered in water owing to the high water level in the Rupununi River. He said the villages were now starting to assess the damage done to their farms and calculating their losses. He added that the Region would be making efforts to assist the farmers to start over and ease the burden.

“We are not allowing the people (who we evacuated) to go back into the villages until the water starts to recede and stay that way. There are no alarming cases of vomiting and diarrhoea, but we are monitoring the situation and we are getting reports daily,” the Regional Chairman informed.

When asked about the medical supplies to combat water-borne diseases and other health issues that may arise due to the flooding, Allicock said that thus far, the Region has adequate drugs, but was still awaiting the promised supplies from the Prime Minister.

Eugene La Cruz from Karaudarnauwau Village in Deep South Rupununi said that the farms in the village were under water. He related that the farmers were sceptical about replanting in the event of another flooding.

“We don’t know how much damage we have right now, but the earth is soaked and we can’t plant back for now. The cassava and plantain rotting out and we won’t have anything to sell,” he related.

Since the beginning of the May-June rainy season, citizens were warned to expect higher than normal rainfall and to take the necessary precautions. However, since it began, several villages have experienced major flooding and some were still trying to rebuild after the floods. The hard-hit communities were mostly limited to Regions Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) and Eighty (Potaro-Siparuni) as the water washed away houses, but fortunately, there were no casualties.

One such village is Chenapau in Region Eight. Water levels in the Amerindian village rose to approximately 20 feet in some areas and the Potaro River remained flooded owing to the heavy rains the Region is currently experiencing.

The residents there are fearful of rebuilding since the threat of another flood is looming on the horizon. Roadways and access to the other zones in the village remain flooded. Villagers are also accusing the Government of neglecting them since the water receded from their lands.

They complained that following the initial relief supplies, the Government has yet to offer any additional supplies to the community as they are still battling to recuperate. Farms in the village were washed away and residents were finding it difficult to restart.

Several weeks ago, access to Aishalton, Region 9 was cut off when the Kabanawau Creek overtopped its banks and flooded the area. The bridge leading into Aishalton was flooded, cutting off access to the village for several hours.

Just a couple of weeks ago, several communities along the East Coast of Demerara and in Georgetown reported water levels over two feet in some areas. This was a result of heavy rainfall and poor drainage management/infrastructure in some areas.