Sea defence collapses in Mahaicony; over 1,000 acres of farmlands under threat


By Bibi Khatoon

Farmers at Columbia and Dantzig, Mahaicony on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) are fearful they will lose millions of dollars as the sea defence protecting their cattle, rice and cash crop collapsed.

The dam which serves as a sea defence in the area, separating the Ocean from the Belamy Canal, has been under threat for some time and complaints to the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) and other agencies fell on deaf ears.

One of the farmers indicate as he pointed to where the sand bank was previously located

It eventually collapsed sometime between Thursday evening and Friday morning threatening over 1,000 acres of farmlands.

“Not far from here me plant rice, just a next section from here and out of the sixty acre, over thirty done damage. That can’t [be saved] because salt water is in the whole field and it can’t come out from there,” Dyal Ramkarran told the News Room during a visit to the area Saturday.

Dyal Ramkarran

The salt water causes the rice plants to die since it disrupts the plants’ water absorption process; the farmers said about 100 acres of rice land is already affected.

Ramkarran told the News Room he began planting rice about four years ago and suffered major losses during his last crop as a result of a prolonged dry season.

“Rice is most like what I depend on and what happen here now affect a lot for me,” the father of one said.

Some of the cultivated rice lands under threat

Ramkarran, who resides at Columbia, said he was able to access fertilizer for his crop which is already 35 days old from a nearby factory. The cost for the fertilizer will have to be repaid after his crop is harvested but with most damaged, he has to figure out another way to make that payment.

“If me get any [money] then me go pay, if me ain’t get, me nah know what [is going] to happen,” he noted.

“Me had some cow and done sell them to plant rice,” the visibly distressed farmer related.

“In all me go lost over $4M,” Ramkarran told the News Room.

Ramkarran also cultivates cash crop and rears cattle but all are under threat since he plies his trade on land located close to the Atlantic Ocean.

Neil Mashado, a rice farmer, explained to the News Room that in the area of the breach, there was a sand bank which kept washing away.

Neil Mashado

He said the Regional Democratic Council and other agencies were informed of the issue but it was not taken seriously until it became detrimental.

“Nobody expected this to starting tearing away so fast,” Mashado said.

If the issue is not fixed urgently, he said the water will flow into the Mahaica river causing other farmers in the region to be affected.

When the dam initially broke, the strength of the water caused it to flow over the public road and affected rice cultivation in the back lands as well.

Another farmer, 70-year-old Sahadeo Ramcharran believes the authorities have been “dragging their foot” instead of addressing the issue.

Ramcharran said he has 30 acres of land which was already cultivated and another 35 acres on the other side of the public road and “they’re all under threat.”

Sahdeo Ramcharran

The farmer, who has been doing this job for about 30 years, said his cows are also affected since they cannot consume the salt water.

“I’m calling on the Minister and whoever is in charge to do something speedy…this is an emergency here and something needs to be done now,” he said.

Ramcharran said if the farmers are to wait on the Government to do its scoping work and award contracts to solve the issue, all of their crops will be lost.

“Personally, I invest all that I have in this crop, if this gone, well at my age, I can’t continue to start something new again,” the 70-year-old rice farmer told the News Room.

The News Room was reliably informed that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, which is responsible for sea defence, will deploy a barge to construct a substitute dam to protect the rice lands on Monday.

When the News Room visited the area on Saturday, the barge was a short distance away where it was working to fix a shorter span of sea defence which was also damaged.

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