5000 acres of rice land threatened as Mahaica sea defence breached


More than 5000 acres of rice land at Mahaica, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) are under threat of saltwater intrusion as new breaches in the sea defence at Dantzig appear.

It was only last year that thousands of acres of rice and cash crop land were destroyed when the sea defence gave way at Dantzig.

Now, a new breach has occurred. On Thursday, a contractor employed by the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) placed a tube to allow water from the new breach to flow out through a sluice at the Cottage foreshore.

However, when the tide rises and the sluice door is closed, the water heads into the back dam at a rate of 200 cubics per second. Farmers who operate there reported that on Friday morning, saltwater had reached farms.

One section of the breach

Philbert Alves, who has 40 acres of rice under cultivation at Drill and another 30 acres at Cottage, said this is the last bit of land remaining in the Mahaica cultivation area.

“This system that they implemented yesterday (Thursday) afternoon without seeking the farmers’ advice as to the effect it will have on farmers they just went ahead and do it. This will pollute all of the water from here (Cottage) all the way to Mahaicony.”

This newspaper was told that is a distance of about six miles, containing several hundred acres of farmland, which is utilised by more than 300 rice farmers.

The October 2019 floods affected both the homestead and farming community. Farmland between Planters Hall and DeHoop became barren and remain that way. Cash crop, rice and cattle farmers were all thrown out of business.

“If that should take place here, it will put the rice farmers in a bad spot and maybe we will lose our investment but there are so many people who maintain their families off of us; we create jobs for people in the area. If we should lose our rice, they cannot get work,” Alves noted.

Meanwhile, another rice farmer, Doodnauth Singh, who has 55 acres of land under cultivation at Farm Village, Mahaicony, told Inews that the canal in which the saltwater was diverted is linked to the entire Mahaicony.

He said when the sluice door is closed, the saltwater will fill the canal right down to Perth Byaboo.

“We will have to block the canal for the water not to get to the back dam. Is over 5000 acres of rice will be lost by this saltwater. From here going back to Dantzig don’t have anything; no cattle, no rice and what they have done will contaminate the whole and everything will finish,” the frustrated rice farmer said.

According to Singh, after realising what happened on Friday morning, they approached an engineer from the NDIA and were told that the tube was placed to assist in removing the water from Dantzig which now has four breaches.

Rice farmers are getting ready to pump water into their fields, hence the presence of saltwater in the canal will damage the crop and also the land.

Suesankar Persaud, another rice farmer who cultivates 300 acres at four locations and also has an additional 75 acres in Berbice, said if the situation is not rectified he will lose all of his crops between Drill and Cottage.

“Don’t worry with people who saying that the water will go out through the sluice, as soon as the sluice door lock, all the water will head for the back dam because it don’t have nowhere else to go.”

Regional Chairman Vickchand Ramphal, who also inspected the work done by the contractor, told the Evening News that he has since raised the issue with the relevant authorities and was promised that the situation will be resolved.

“I made contact with the CEO of NDIA and he promised to put systems in place to prevent the intrusion of saltwater in the catchment area. I want farmers to know that they have been given the assurance by NDIA.”

Ramphal said he will be monitoring the situation.

Farmers are suggesting that the NDIA can utilise a pump which is already in the area rather than put their livelihood at risk.