Govt should make changes to current drainage and irrigation system

Dear Editor,
There is an urgency exhibited by house-lot owners across the country to embark on building their own homes, primarily to avoid the huge costs being asked by contractors, but also because of their being pressured to erect a structure within a prescribed timeframe, lest the Government reclaims the house lot.
Housing experts have argued that while reclaiming the house lots may be the proper action by the Government against defaulters, this action is a recipe for disaster.
That said, it is incumbent upon Government, urban planners, infrastructure designers and building inspectors to make sure that all building codes and rules are adhered to by builders, especially a suitable drainage system to absorb the excess water from heavy rainfall.
Given the recent flooding in Georgetown and contiguous areas, it seems that after decades of flooding that follow heavy downpours, there is still no solution to this problem. Flooding has been a major problem in the country that not only caused extensive damage to property, but constantly disrupted the lives of people. I and many others are of the firm opinion that the crux of the problem is plain and simple. While flooding is considered a natural disaster, it can be controlled. In order to control or limit the impact of flooding, every housing scheme in the country should have a significant percentage of open land soil, at least about 30%, in order to absorb the excess rainwater.
Government should mandate that all housing schemes be designed with retention ponds/trenches which serve the purpose of draining the excess rainwater and thus prevent, alleviate, or limit the impact of flooding in that community.
And during the so-called “dry weather season”, the ponds/ trenches would be a source of water for household use, for animals to drink, and to be used to help maintain cash crops. Simply put, there should be a limited amount of concreted on regular soil.
It appears that Guyana’s recent flooding woes can be traced to January 2005, when extreme rainfall and high tides caused devastating flooding on the coastal lowlands in many areas, including Guyana’s capital and only city, Georgetown, which remained inundated for up to three weeks, with water levels reaching chest height in many city homes.
Due to its age and to climatic pressures, the Dutch sea defence system has been, and continues to be, under increasing stress. Sea level rises pose a significant threat to a reduction in the amount of water that can be drained by pumps and gravity. If nothing else, the flood highlighted that climate change is a fact, and that the country’s drainage and irrigation system, which originated during the Dutch colonial period of the late 1600s and has been expanded overtime by governments, is vulnerable. Therefore, better and more drastic changes are needed to upgrade the aged Dutch drainage system to absorb excess rainwater and prevent flooding.
As has been evident over the years, there have been breaches of the original 400- year-old Dutch drainage and irrigation system, which had such flood-control mechanisms for the rainy season as a network of sluices and canals that not only helped to drain away excess water, but the canals were also used to store water during the dry season for irrigation and household use.
After decades of constant flooding in the city and other low-lying areas along the Coastal Belt, it is time for Government to revisit, and make the necessary changes to, the current drainage and irrigation system in lieu of the dire threats posed by future climate change.

Leyland Chitlall