The disasters, both natural and man-made
It has been a while since the rains have as intense as they have been over the weekend. Indeed Guyana is a land of rain and sun. When there is a lot of sun the ground is parched to the extent that large cracks appear in the ground.
Occasionally, the ground is so dry that nothing grows and animals put out to pasture actually die of hunger and thirst. There have, however, been very few such cases. Three years there was what was considered a drought. The canals dried up and rice farmers suffered losses.
Then, the farmers blamed the Agriculture Ministry for not putting in place, measures to conserve water which could be used during the dry periods. The rains did come and as can be expected, there is still no measure to conserve water.
We have had a few days of rain and we now find that in almost every community there is not adequate drainage with the result that the water remains on the land. Excess water on the land weakens the area around the roots of large trees and these come toppling, sometimes on homes. This is what happened in Buxton Sunday evening.
The water on the land was nothing compared to the floods of 2005 when homes, schools and just about everywhere was under water. People had to rescue their neighbours and the government at one time even contemplated erecting a tent city at Timehri. Today, while there is water on the land and some homes have been flooded all along the coast the situation is not dire.
But in rural communities people had long taken to planting trees around their homes. These trees often provided money to do certain needed things. But in times like these some of the very trees come crashing down, as happened in Buxton.
The water was at least one meter deep in places so when the house collapsed every electrical appliance in it was under water and had become useless. Worse, not one of the village leaders visited the depressed family. Such visits are often the norm. In every case leaders meet with the affected people. We have known cases of officials meeting the victims of fire and other tragedies.
True, these officials are almost always state officials who, when they do visit, attract all manner of people including the village leaders. There was no state leader to visit the woman who lost her home when the tree crashed onto it so there was no village leader.
What makes the absence of a member of the Neighbourhood Democratic Council more noticeable is the fact that the administration has been criticizing these bodies for their inefficiency. All have been in place since the local government elections of 1994 and many have lapsed either because some of the members have migrated or because people have simply stopped attending meetings and planning for the communities over which they preside.
Through the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils the victims could be readily offered assistance from the Disaster Relief Committee and from the various relief agencies that exist in Guyana. Indeed, the victims could make direct approach but the request from the NDC would be far more effective.
But there is an even greater issue. The government has been spending a lot of money on clearing the waterways. It spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the wake of the floods of 2005. There was some spending when the rains threatened last year. However, it would seem that with each passing day the very people who should clear the waterway actually use them as a means of garbage disposal. The result is that they are almost always blocked.
It is rather surprising that the government never moved to install an interim management committee in that particular neighbourhood. The residents say that they rarely ever see a councilor and almost never see the chairman.
Sadly, there are other NDCs that are equally inefficient. Some of the flooded locations in other parts of the country would testify to this.