For more than two and a half months, the homes of thousands of residents in about 35 villages in the interior of Suriname, South America, have been under water. It could be weeks before residents can return. Water problems are caused by heavy rainfall and a lack of dry season. As a result, there are also major problems with the dam, as water is released to prevent it from collapsing. This drainage causes additional flooding to neighboring villages.
Experts, including meteorologists and Suriname’s state company Statsoli, which owns the dam, predict that flooding in remote areas of Suriname will not end until around June. Until then, Staatsolie will have to regularly open the dam’s bubbles to prevent the water level in the tank from getting too high. This is important because too much water can cause the dam to rupture with even greater consequences.
The necessary detonation will have serious consequences for the inhabitants of the regions of Prokobondo and Saramaca. According to Jerry Selingard, coordinator of the National Coordination Center for Disaster Management (NCCR), about 12,000 people from about 35 villages have been affected by the floods so far. The vast majority chose not to leave the house and the stove. According to Selingard, about three hundred people have moved temporarily.
The National Council for Reform and Development has been working since March to provide villagers with packages of food and other necessities. Food is essential because many crops, such as cassava, ginger and sweet potatoes, have been destroyed. They cannot withstand prolonged immersion in water. The relief organization will also bring about thirty large water tanks to the areas in the coming weeks so that residents can collect clean rainwater. The military, police, and local officials assist with emergency services.
However, resentment remains rife among the affected population. Their biggest disappointment was that Staatsolie didn’t get them ready for layoff in March, so they couldn’t make any preparations. According to Selingard, there has been better communication in recent years. Until two years ago, Soralco (a subsidiary of Alcoa of America) owned the dam. Now the government owns Staatsolie. The company did not apologize, but acknowledged the lack of communication. “Staatsolie has now taken in all the costs of just under €25,000 per month,” says Slingard.
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