Over the past few days, heavy rainfall caused flooding in several communities across the country, and more so severely impacted Georgetown.
These communities have been so badly affected that the Government has triggered the inter-Agency Task Force led by the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) to partially activate the National Emergency Operations Centre. According to the Hydrometeorological Office, the current extreme rainfall pattern is expected to last until Sunday, and Guyana is expected to receive above-normal rainfall and low-lying areas could experience flooding. As such, residents have been advised to take precautionary measures, because the likelihood of flash flooding has increased.
Guyana is perhaps one of the more precarious lands in South America, since its coastal strip is already some 2.4 metres below sea level. This makes the country vulnerable to flooding. So, when the weather gets really extreme – as it is presently – Government has kept its disaster response plans on standby. However, compounding the situation further for Georgetown is the fact that City Hall has again failed to clear and clean clogged drains and canals in the city. It is well known that citizens of the city are fed up with the wrangling and sometimes even outrageous behaviour of City Hall and their failure to carry out their fiduciary duties.
For years, Central Government has been allocating huge sums towards the council but, unfortunately, citizens are not seeing the kind of results and development they expect. Certain parts of the city are littered with garbage, there are clogged drains and canals, pavements and surrounding drainage are blocked due to illegal vending. As is currently being experienced, Georgetown continues to battle with garbage and flooding problems.
Instead of there being any notable improvements, the landscape in the city continues to deteriorate and the problems worsen. The municipality only last week complained about its inability to pay garbage collectors. City Hall has always had a poor track record which erodes public confidence in its ability to keep a commitment and use taxes efficiently to improve the cleaning and drainage of the city.
For years the country has had two rainy seasons, but, with climate change, the weather patterns across the globe have changed significantly. Experts have predicted that more frequent and extreme weather linked to climate change, like hurricanes and severe flooding, would occur more often. While we cannot prevent natural disasters from occurring, we can certainly prepare better, so that the impact is reduced. For this reason, it is crucial that City Hall, and even the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) in the 10 administrative regions in Guyana, should always be prepared by having control of waste management.
Waiting to clean clogged canals and waterways, or fixing drainage pumps only when the rainy season starts should be a thing of the past. It is important that we constantly review our disaster preparedness efforts. There should be no circumstance to catch us off- guard. As this publication has said before, the decisions we make today would determine our resilience to natural disasters and be critical to people’s well-being in the short and long terms.
With respect to City Hall, we agree that the municipality does need money to run the city, so residents and businesses must pay their taxes; but, in the same breath, City Hall too must honour its obligations to the residents of the city. When the previous administration took office in 2015, M&CC had embarked on a massive city-wide clean-up campaign in Georgetown and its environs. It is time that City Hall embark upon these clean-up campaigns as part of its routine schedule to fulfil its obligations to the residents of the city.