Vulnerability analysis needed before building houses – Joe Singh

In light of low-lying areas being susceptible to flooding, Major General (Rtd) Joe Singh is urging residents with flat houses on the coast and flood-prone areas to raise their foundations. Singh is head of a task force Government has established to address the flood situation.
Singh stated that in the past, houses were built on stilts as a preventive measure against flooding, while their crops were planted on mounds.
Recently, the coastland has been hit by severe floods which resulted in massive losses. Poor drainage and non-functioning pumps were some of the factors for the floods.
The government has engaged Dutch experts from The Netherlands to assist in fixing the situation of flooding and drainage in Georgetown and other coastland areas. They have made numerous recommendations—one of which is increasing flood resilience among the people.
A report released by the experts, recommended that people construct two-storey houses, with the main function being the upper flat. This recommendation, it stated, should be mandatory for all project developers.
Singh posited that persons who already have flat houses in the low-lying areas should raise the foundation. He stated that persons should install stilts on their wooden flat houses while those with concrete houses should raise the perimeters of the house.
However, in the case of new construction, he stressed the need for the implementation of a building code, which would enable persons to conduct a vulnerability analysis before creating a house plan.
He stated further that livestock and crops could be saved in flooding if persons would also raise the foundation of their pens and plant their crops in boxes and pots: “For example, areas like the Rupununi, where there is flooding, residents are planting their cassava on mounds to prevent it from being damaged.” He stated that the drip irrigation shade agriculture technique should be promoted among farmers and residents as a measure to prevent flooding.
The Dutch report also recommended that squatting – without sanitation – in flood-prone areas should be eliminated in order to reduce health risks. It stated that flood-proofing sewage infrastructure should be developed.
The report emphasised that while flooding will remain an issue in Guyana, and particularly Georgetown, it is important to communicate this to the people and as such a communication strategy should be developed and implemented to explain the principles of living with water.
It noted that the plan has to be clear that the flood risk will never be reduced to zero. It said further that an inundation probability map of Georgetown should be drafted and used to explain to the people why it is important to build their houses and businesses flood-proof.
“Most people will be aware of flood threats when it happens and forget about it soon after. This loss of awareness influences their behaviour regarding the existing water management infrastructure,” it said, adding that living with water is not just about threats and flood damage but is also extremely economically valuable.
It indicated that “people who are aware of the benefits of living with water tend to understand better the constraints that space for water puts on them as well. Flood risk maps are an example of a specific way of communication to the people. It shows the probability of floods and the consequences of floods.”
It also stated that there should be simple presentations available nationwide on how the drainage system works, why water needs space, and why it is important to keep the drainage system free from constructions and solid waste.