Govt has become indifferent to the needs of the people

Dear Editor,

In a news article of May 3, it was reported that prolonged flooding of a large section of eastern Queenstown, Georgetown, due to heavy rainfall on April 30/May 1 was avoided as a result of intervention by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) and City Hall to clear blocked culverts in Queenstown one of which was under Peter Rose Street discharging into a drainage channel immediately west of Vlissengen Road.

An accompanying photo showed the channel completely blocked with weed and debris with a worker supervised by three Inspectors clearing the outlet of one of the clogged culverts. The Georgetown drainage network is an integrated system and therefore it is inconceivable that given the poor state of the Peter Rose Street drainage channel which the photo clearly showed, that flood water from the Demerara Cricket ground and parts of eastern Queenstown could have receded speedily as claimed since the clogged channel with silt and overgrown weeds could not have discharged its load quickly into the Lamaha Street Canal and thence to the Kingston Sluice.

A few weeks ago, MPI and the city Engineer assured City Residents that Georgetown’s drainage system was prepared to respond quickly to any flooding from heavy rainfall. However, the evidence suggests otherwise as much work remains to be done to the channels and sluices’ outfalls to release/accommodate the heavy rainfalls which usually cause flooding of large areas of the City.

The comprehensive executable drainage plan under preparation by the National Task Force Commission was initiated by MPI last year for the rehabilitation of the drainage of Georgetown but it is still awaiting completion, review and execution.

A Dutch Risk Reduction Team (DRRT) which visited Guyana at the invitation of MPI last year made recommendations to improve Georgetown’s drainage system but few if any of them have been implemented.

In doing little or nothing, MPI claims to be waiting for a follow-up visit by DRRT to map Georgetown’s drainage system to identify the bottlenecks responsible for the City’s yearly flooding. It expects this mapping to become the blueprint for future interventions to solve the City’s drainage problems which unfortunately, would not be ready for this rainy season nor the next.

MPI claims that the existing drainage network for the City can only accommodate 2.4 inches of rainfall during a 24-hour period before flooding starts. The ministry has no data to support this fallacious claim and unless measured correlations are made between rainfalls and discharges into the river over 24-hour periods with simultaneous observations of water levels within the City’s boundaries, the claim thus made is just a guesstimate.

However, assuming this claim could be supported, what has MPI/City Engineer done to get rid of excess rainfall during the 24-hour period to prevent flooding of the City? Are channels being widened and deepened to store rainfall before overtopping starts and/or pumps being installed to assist the sluices get rid of the excess water when their doors are closed, or the City could expect much of the same? Finally, after a year in office the APNU+AFC Government has become indifferent to the needs of the people, created confusion, and is groping in the dark to resolve the drainage problems of Georgetown and low-lying coastal areas as no comprehensive development plan has been prepared while a plethora of agencies (NDIA, MPI, M&CC, Prime Minister’s Office, Conservancies’ Boards, Sea Defence Board, NDCs) some with and without statutory responsibilities have been dabbling with drainage problems as the necessity arise.

President Granger should be aware that many of these agencies do not have the expertise, technical know-how and financial resources to deal with complex drainage problems and unless he brings order to deal with the flooding of coastal lowlands, including Georgetown, in a comprehensive and knowledgeable way, rainy seasons will continue to wreak havoc to farmlands and homesteads as poor families suffer from flood losses of the little they have as the government inconsiderately seeks their patience, understanding and cooperation.

Yours truly,

Charles Sohan