Agri. Minister commits to major D&I works in West Watooka

– residents complain about blocked canals, lack of proper infrastructure
– $123M to be expended to develop conservancy early 2021

Earlier today, Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha met farmers and residents from West Watooka, Region 10 to listen to some of the challenges hampering them.

During the meeting, residents complained about the lack of irrigation and the current state of the drainage canals in the area, adding that it has now become a health hazard to many residents in the community.

Ms. Yolanda Bruce, a resident and farmer in the area said the lack of clearing and maintenance to the canals for a number of years is making her fearful about her family’s health and safety.

“On to now the canals haven’t been cleared. It is disgusting. We need a pipe in there to provide water that we can use. Our skin scratching from the dirty water. All the canals need to be cleared. All the road head, all the snakes coming out in the night,” Ms. Bruce said.

Mr. Leroy Hill, another farmer in the area, also sought the assistance of the Minister with having a tractor fitted with a plough to assist with accessing farm lands in the area.

“One of the main things as a farmer, for me, is water into the place and we need a tractor with a plough. Even if you have these things at one location and people have to pay a small fee for it. The roads to go into my farm haven’t finished as yet. Since last year or year before the last, they were supposed to come and do the setting up and clearing of the roads to give access, but I have to take access through another farmer’s land to get to my land. I feel these things should have been done a long time ago. The lands also need ploughing. If you check the whole of Linden, we don’t have a tractor with a plough to do these works and its putting us under pressure,” Mr. Hill said.

Ms. Myrtle Gentle, representative of the West Watooka Farmers’ Association, also spoke about the need for regular maintenance of the community’s drainage systems.

“What I notice, they would maintain the canals twice a year. Along the road, I think they refer to those as drains, these are not being cleared. For me, I’ve noticed as a farmer that the area needs a lot of drainage. I have my drains there but when the water comes out, it just backs up in the drain and it becomes very smelly. I hope that some system can be put in place to correct this. It would also better the road system because if you notice when you were driving it, it was a real hazard to get in here. When you have to hire a car to come in her to take out or bring in goods, it costs more because the drivers don’t want to come,” Ms. Gentle said.

In response to these concerns, Minister Mustapha said the NDIA will be sending machines to the area to commence clearing of the canals within the next couple days.

“We have to play the facilitating role as the Government. That is why we are here today to help you, the farmers, and we will help you. For those persons who raised issues about the clogged canals, I’ve instructed the NDIA to have a machine come into this area to clear all the canals that you would’ve mentioned. We’ll also send a small machine here to clear the road side drains that are clogged. Those machines should be here to commence works before the week is out. I also want to encourage you, when we award contracts for manual clearing as part of the maintenance programme, we have to ensure that the groups carrying out these works do it to the satisfaction of the community because sometimes we award contracts and we are not getting satisfaction for our money. When I look at the amount of money expended here over the last couple of years, I don’t think there should’ve been this amount of issues raised,” Minister Mustapha said.

He also disclosed that the coming year will see the Ministry developing a conservancy in the area.

“In the new year, we will start the conservancy at the back here to trap irrigation water. $123M will be expended here so that you can benefit from regular irrigation water for your crop. That project is at the evaluation stage and should be going to the tender board soon. We’ll also be doing another D&I structure for an additional $50M right at the back here,” Minister Mustapha said. The Minister was accompanied by the Ministry’s Director General, Mr. Madanlall Ramraj and other senior Ministry and Regional officials.

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