Flooding in Guyana: causes and solutions

Dear Editor,
There is an urge for house lot owners to embark on building their own homes, primarily to save some costs, but also from the pressure to erect something before the lot is repossessed. This is a recipe for catastrophe. Guyana is poorly equipped with urban planners and infrastructure designers, and it has archaic building codes. And no one has found a solution for heavy rainfall.
The crux of the matter is plain and simple: Without effective zoning, occupancy codes, building inspection during construction, and usage of correct building materials, Guyana would remain in the doldrums of progress. Here are a few suggestions that the housing authorities need to consider:
1. Open green space: In housing construction, a significant percentage of the lot, say 30%, must be left open (the so-called green rule) and not concreted. This would allow rainwater to be absorbed rather than drained off into overburdened drains, especially in regions like Georgetown.
2. Retention ponds: In designing communities, say like 100 homes, retention ponds with their two-fold purpose are a dire necessity: they collect drain-offs to alleviate flooding, and provide a source of water in dry weather.
3. Regular garbage collection: Compactor trucks for garbage collection would see significant removal of wastes that block main drainage channels.
4. Household wells: In the further retention of rain water, small wells need to be instituted in building codes (the dry well concept). These wells of, say, 64 cubic feet (4x4x4) would also prevent unwanted runoff into the poorly maintained drainage system.
5. Recycling: The collection of plastic, cardboard and glass containers must now be of high priority, as this activity not only provides an ‘income’ but is a great deterrent for blockages.
6. Illegal dumping: Regulations in regard to dumping should be enforced with preventative fines. Environmentally hazardous items like engine oil, televisions (which contain lead), and undegradable plastics top the list. Alternatively, authorities can facilitate a paid dumping site.
A cursory look at the dilemma facing the housing authority reveals that the entity is overwhelmed with indecision, lack of planning, inexperienced staff, and lack of initiative. Then there is a litany of woes such as poor materials, workmanship, lack of building inspectors, and virtually non-existent construction codes (especially electric) and building codes. The end result is often the dreaded 4 Ss – slipping, shifting, sinking and sliding houses.
Offering superficial solutions to serious problems would not work. If that is done, problems would persist and Guyana would perpetually be inundated after a heavy rainfall; and, true to its name, would remain the Land of Many Waters.

Leyland Chitlall