People’s lives depend on efficiency – President outraged after finding pumps off, staff sleeping

Citywide flooding

…“it wasn’t me” – City Engineer

President Irfaan Ali during his impromptu visit Sunday evening

President Dr Irfaan Ali’s decision to do impromptu visits to sluices and pumps around the city late Sunday evening caught several pump attendants napping, with the equipment needed to drain the city of floodwaters turned off.
Such was the case when President Ali and team arrived for an inspection of the pumps at Riverview, Ruimveldt; Lombard Street and Kitty Pump Station.
Upon arrival at Riverview, Ruimveldt, it was found that the pumps at that location were off, the koker doors were closed and the worker was asleep.
“This is what we are talking about, I came out here myself to verify tonight. The main pump to drain the city is turned off. Up to today, we said that the pumps need to be on 24 hours…while we have to deal with the heavy rainfall we have to deal decisively with the irresponsibility and negligence,” the President said.

President Ali questions an attendant as to the reason why one of the pumps was off

Meanwhile, a similar situation was found at Lombard Street, Georgetown, forcing the President to question why the pump was not on. Another stop was made at the Kitty Pump Station, where it was found that two of the city’s most important pumps were not working. However, minutes after President Ali arrived, one of the pumps was mysteriously turned on.
The journey continued on to the Liliendaal Pump Station where both pumps were working. The pump attendant related that they had been running over the last 24 hours. He noted that he was pleased with the work done and the commitment shown at the pump stations in Meadow Bank, Central Georgetown, Kingston (while assessing the Lamaha Street pumps), Liliendaal and Hope Canal.

Hope Canal model
After more than two hours of inspection, President Ali made his last stop at the Hope Canal pumping station, which was working at full power. According to him, the Hope Canal model may have to be replicated in other parts of the country to ensure flooding does not happen.

City Engineer Colvern Venture

“This is one of the signature projects in previous PPP Governments. And if this canal was not here now, the East Coast would have been under water. So, this facility has really helped out tremendously.”
“And it is facilities like this that may have to replicate in Berbice and in other areas, to drain directly from the backlands straight out to the ocean. It’s only these facilities that can give you direct drainage,” President Ali said.
When he visited the station, all eight sluice doors were opened and were taking off large volumes of water from nearby communities.

Lives at stake
The President reminded that across the country, Guyanese are living under tremendous stress as many have seen their homes flooded, crops and livestock destroyed and their livelihood affected.
“We can have the best infrastructure; we can create the best environment, but if we don’t manage that infrastructure, if we don’t manage the environment, if we don’t take care of it, if we don’t ensure that we work efficiently, it’s for nothing. And this is more than efficiency, you have to work conscientiously. People’s lives depend on it.”
He pointed out that the floodwaters and the rainfall do not discriminate and have nothing to do with politics, but affect all Guyanese.
“So, as a caring Government, we are out here. Not only am I out here, but different Cabinet members are also in different areas… the situation is very, very difficult at the moment… At the end of the day, people are suffering and that is what worries me; that is what bothers me.”

‘It wasn’t me’
The Georgetown Mayor and City Council (GM&CC) is meanwhile refusing to shoulder blame for flooding in the capital city, with City Engineer Colvern Venture in a press conference on Monday asserting that flooding was unavoidable considering the volume of rainfall.
The flooding that affected large parts of Georgetown had been blamed on negligence by the Mayor and City Council throughout the weekend. However, Venture said the flooding was in fact unavoidable and there was nothing the city could do about it.
“Based on the records that I would have received and looked at, the amount of rainfall within that period could not have avoided any flooding in the city. We would have encountered that based on the millimetres of rainfall we received.”
“But while that is so, the Council did put in effect its operation in terms of going around and checking to see where there were blockages and so forth. And to see how we could reduce those issues as quickly as possible,” Venture said.
When it comes to the sluices and pumps, the City Engineer said that these were opened and operational throughout the weekend. He claimed that only one location, at Lamaha Street, presented any challenges.
“The sluices and the pumps… started opening from 10:00 (on Saturday) and went into the early mornings of yesterday morning. Based on the records and reports I received from my engineers and other officers on the ground, there were quite a few pumps that were operational,” Venture claimed.
“In fact, all the pumps were operational. The sluices along the Demerara River, they were open. Save and except for one sluice which we had some challenges with. And that’s at the Lamaha Street. There is heavy siltation of both the inlet and outlet at that location. However, the pump compensates for that aspect of it.”
President Ali is not alone in observing pump attendants sleeping on the job. Other Ministers, including Public Works Minister Juan Edghill and Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, also made similar observations during their inspections. (G3)