Climate change will bring unexpected disasters – President warns

…says time to examine innovative technology, sound engineering solutions

President Irfaan Ali has warned that with climate change becoming a superior threat, it will bring greater magnitudes of disasters – which the country should prepare for.
On Friday, the Head of State visited several affected areas across Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), where he heard the plights of residents that have been affected by current mass flooding. Expansion in the different sectors, he cautioned, will call for innovative solutions to mitigate disasters.

President Ali engaging farmers and residents at Canal Number One, West Bank Demerara

“As you continue and expand housing, the challenge becomes greater. That is why I said earlier we have to look at innovative technology, sound engineering solutions like the one we have at Hope Canal. You need, sometimes, unimpeded discharge for situations like these. We cannot deny climate change. Climate change would bring more and more unplanned disasters, more and more natural disasters like these and in higher scales.”
He added, “With climate change, one of the things that we have to look at, especially with our farming community, is future patterns and then look at how we reintegrate the drainage system because the fact of the matter is, and this is one of the challenges of development— housing is going to grow here in Region Three.”
The Head of State was accompanied by Education Minister, Priya Manickchand; Minister within the Public Works Ministry, Deodat Indar and other Government officials. He said the Region Three Disaster Response Regional Task Force has been activated as Government seeks to mitigate flooding in the communities, offering round the clock monitoring.
In highlighting Government’s response, he informed, “The Disaster Response Regional Task Force has been activated, there is 24 hours monitoring as to what is happening in the region. So far, I can tell you that there is documentation of affected households.  Intervention has been made with food hampers and cleaning agents, and so on. We are now working on health packages for preventative care for known effects of flooding on health.”
With several agencies and Ministries deployed in the flood relief, Ali stressed that the focus is to secure livelihoods and have a robust health system in the event of emergencies.
“I must say the NDIA, led by Minister Zulfikar [Mustapha], the Sea Defence people; they are all out 24 hours. This requires understanding and patience from all stakeholders too. We understand the complications for farmers and so on. Right now, we are at a stage where the Government is focusing on securing livelihoods, securing lives and assets and ensuring that we have a robust response from the health system,” the Head of State pointed out.
The President explained to the residents that the Government fully understands the impact that the high floodwaters have had on their livelihoods since the current flooding is not an isolated situation but one the entire country is facing together. He added that the relief efforts, including food and cleaning supplies, would be continuous.
“Whilst we may not be able to give 100 per cent help in what may be required, you can be assured that the Government will be providing assistance in getting back your lives together and livelihood together.”
At Parika, East Bank Essequibo, it was indicated that the rising water of the Boeraserie Conservancy is of serious concern, since a breakaway could flood the village. Equipment has been sent in to remedy the increasing volume.
“In the Parika-Naamryck area, the water has to be released, unfortunately. Otherwise, we’ll have a greater disaster. If the water is not released, the dam will go and if the dam goes, entire housing communities and so will be flooded out…We cannot afford for any part of the dam to be eroded or to break away. We have mobilised machines all across the different conservancies and banks trying to build the level of the bank.”
At the Boeraserie, 62.7 Guyana Datum (GD) was the highest ever recorded level. At present, the water level is at 63.3 GD, while the highest point of the dam is 64 GD. The President said that such levels and volumes of water were, in the past, a 1 in 1000 occurrence, but given the effects of climate change, such extreme conditions may become more frequent in the future. The current situation, he added, is indeed testing “all of our capabilities”.
Over at Canal Number One, West Bank Demerara, he announced that the Government is working on getting finances for the affected farmers.
“To the farmers who are affected, we are already working. A few minutes ago, I was on the phone with the Vice President [Dr Bharrat Jagdeo] and the Minister of Finance [Dr Ashni Singh], and we are working now on finding additional resources to go to the Parliament for a supplementary so that we can bring relief to you,” the flood victims were told.