Collapsed sea defence: resources diverted to protect farmlands in Mahaicony

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The Ministry of Public Infrastructure says it is conducting emergency works at Dantzig, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara (ECD) to assist rice farmers affected by the breakage of a sea defence dam in the area.

“A walkthrough will be done with the rice farmers and sea defence officers to ensure effective emergency interventions,” the Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

During a visit to the area on Saturday afternoon, farmers explained to the News Room that the primary sea defence dam which separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Belamy Canal broke away on sometime between Thursday evening and Friday morning threatening over 1,000 acres of farmlands.

One farmer said half of his rice crop which was cultivated 35 days ago is already damaged from the salt water since the Belamy Canal was already filled to capacity.

The salt water overtopping into the Belamy canal

The Ministry in its statement explained that a long boom excavator was mobilized on Saturday to assist rice farmers to reinforce dams around their rice fields to prevent intrusion.

Those works are expected to commence today while a second excavator attached to the ministry will be mobilized by Tuesday to work along with farmers.

The farmers expressed fear that the time taken for the Government to conduct scoping works and award contracts will lead to them suffering millions of dollars in losses.

The Ministry, which is responsible for sea defence, explained that an erosion cycle in the area resulted in loss of large stretches of mangrove forest and severe erosion of the earthen embankments between Broomhall and Dantzig area.

“A tender was opened last Tuesday on 2 July 2019 for the supply of 2500 tons of boulders which will be deliver to the breach area at Dantzig. 1000 tons will be delivered on Wednesday to armour and reinstate the breach embankment,” the Ministry said in its statement.

As a result, it was explained that works are currently ongoing a short distance away at Prospect and Broomhall. Therefore, there will be no prolonged waiting time since the some of the boulders will be diverted to Dantzig to seal the breached section.

Additionally, a tender will be opened at National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) on Tuesday to construct 350 meters of rip rap structure between Prospect and Broomhall. This is a phase 2 project.

Phase 1 was already awarded and includes for the construction of 325 meters, so the total length of works is 675 meters which is over 1200 feet works.

In the meant time, the Belamy sluice is discharging water into the Mahaica River and is working at both low tide periods within 24 hours to ensure rapid drawdown, the Ministry said.

The sluice, which is operated by the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary Agriculture Development Authority (MMA/ADA), is used to drain the Belamy Canal so that it can accommodate some of the water from the Atlantic Ocean, thereby protecting the farmlands.

The areas will continue to be monitored by the sea and river defence department to ensure quick response to any further issues, the Ministry said.

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