President visits flooded areas of La Digue-‘Major re-design of La Digue drainage system needed’


President James Michel made the remark at the end of a visit to La Digue to assess the damage done by heavy rains which battered the island for around 11 days.

President Michel said that an engineering project needs to be done, and that seeing the effects for himself has given him a better idea of how to proceed in addressing the issues.

Before starting his visit, President Michel met the district authorities, who updated him on the calamities, the work done and still being done to address the situation.

Mr Michel, who then visited the various sites and families affected by the bad weather, was accompanied by the Minister for Social Affairs, Community Development and Sports Vincent Meriton, the island’s member of the National Assembly Chantal Ghislain and district administrator Barbara Barallon.

Also present were the Minister for Environment and Energy Professor Rolph Payet, Minister for Land Use and Housing Christian Lionnet, and secretary general of the Office of the President Lise Bastienne.

With La Passe bearing the brunt of the bad weather, the delegaton visited sites such as Vanilla Road, marsh outlets, drainage systems, and the Logan Hospital.

It also visited families and went to the residences of Mrs Marymonde Rose and Lizanne Radegonde.
During the visit, the continuous whir of pumps could be heard as water in still-flooded areas were being pumped out. Some houses, whose yards were still flooded, were accessed by their owners and visitors via bricks and wooden planks as a makeshift path, while others who were not so lucky had their owners trudging through the dirty water to reach their houses.

President Michel said that appropriate studies will be carried out, and that a good point noted in the designing of the buildings and houses on La Digue is that they are built slightly higher than ground level.

“Building slightly above ground level has been to the advantage of the La Digue residents compared to those from Anse Aux Pins and Au Cap districts who have also been severely affected by the heavy rains,” he said.

“The main concern here is the water which has stayed behind and is growing stagnant each day. Efforts are being made to pump the water out, although there is so much the pumps can do. It is important then, that the appropriate authorities responsible for public health step in to ensure that there are no ensuing possible health threats, especially from multiplying mosquito populations.”

Septic tanks have also been affected, with the soak-away pits causing the soil to be contaminated, which President Michel said efforts are being made to contain the risks.

“One thing I am disappointed with is that La Digue is rather dirty, contrary to its reputation of being a beautiful clean island. I have noticed a large amount of trash, all in the most inappropriate places. With the recent flooding, we have noticed rubbish floating around in a lot of places, which should not be the case. La Digue needs a serious clean-up campaign led by the appropriate authorities,” he said.

Minister Lionnet said the shoreline on La Digue is much higher than the plateaus behind it, and combined with a lot of flat areas, is unfortunately the perfect situation for retaining water.

“The Anse Aux Pins and La Digue plateaus have a lot of similarities, and we cannot ever be able to prevent every single situation that arise from bad weather. We can learn from it and work on a long-term solution for a much better drainage system for La Digue,” he said.

Our selection of photos (taken by our photographer Patrick Joubert) show some of the affected sites on La Digue and President Michel and his delegation on their tour of the various sites to assess the damage.