Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Harvest rainwater for agriculture

Published:Tuesday | November 17, 2020 | 12:07 AM


It is a no-brainer that extreme rainfall causes severe flooding, damage, and destruction to lives and property. Last week, the call came, this time from two senators and a junior minister, appealing for the infrastructural capability to enable the harvesting of rainwater to be channelled to the southern plain for agricultural purposes.

In the 1970s, the Manley-led administration brought Cuban engineers and builders who made a number of micro dams to capture and store rainwater for farm irrigation. However, after the dams were built, they did not address the issues, and consequently, no long-standing water was stored and agriculture never benefited.

Large swathes of the Netherlands lie more than five feet below sea level, and in 1953, a powerful storm brought with it a flood of epic proportions. The toll was immense, with the loss of 1,885 human lives, the death of 200,000 cattle, 4,300 homes destroyed, 72,000 people displaced, and 2,000 square kilometres of land flooded. Consequently, over the following years, Dutch engineers successfully beat back the sea, averting future devastation, and the country has not experienced any serious flooding.

But seemingly, the land of wood and water is destined to continue to be overwhelmed by frequent and heavy rains and damaging floods. This is usually followed a few months later by severe drought that negatively affects agricultural output.

While we continue to suffer the devastation of ever-increasing and heavier rainfall, we have not made serious efforts to control the deluge and/or reduce the disaster it has brought. This needs to be addressed soon.