It would appear that the May-June rains have arrived on the coastland – as always, a bit after they would have already descended on our interior regions. After our experiences in the last few years, this event, which would normally be welcomed, does tend to raise some apprehensions in the minds of the ordinary folk.
The scenes from the floods of 2005 are not easily erased from the mind. But our meteorological officials have told us that, this year, the amount of rainfall would be “near normal,” and our Agricultural officials have assured us that they are ready to deal with any eventuality.
Huge sums have been allocated in the Budget: some $392 million of the annual total of $1.7 billion will be expended during this period alone. Pumps will be installed, our capacity to store the water in the Demerara Conservancy will be boosted, and canals will be cleared.
But a nagging doubt remains. Perhaps it arises out of the remembrance that all those same promises were made in the past, but that somehow, when the waters poured out of the sky, all our preparations were for naught.
It is not, in our estimation, that our officials are not well meaning, but the sad truth is that there are too many slips between the cup and the lip when it comes to keeping us dry. One of the major culprits that have brought about this contingency is the appalling lapse in discipline exhibited by those entrusted with what one would have thought was a simple task: to monitor the drainage and conservancy system at key points, such as kokers and dams.
We have been assured that, “in addition to the 32 monitoring staff of the EDWC, an additional 160 persons will be employed to enhance the monitoring activity during the mid-year rain period.” We hope that the monitoring staff will be themselves monitored.
Too often, after the billions have been expended, we read of some attendant not being at his post and causing major flooding, resulting in the destruction of additional billions in crops, livestock and clean-up charges. The supervisors of these attendants must be willing to get out of their offices and motivate their charges in maintaining a high level of vigilance during the next few months.
The breakdown in discipline is not confined to the governmental employees entrusted with the task of D&I, but extends to our entire society.
It should not have surprised anyone that, during the shorter rainy season in the latter part of last year, the Government had to rush in with emergency arrangements to drain a village on the East Coast that suddenly became inundated, because the residents had blocked their entire drainage system with abandoned vehicles, concrete bridges and various and sundry garbage.
We are all guilty of similar behaviour. We, as a people, will have to appreciate that we are literally living in a huge trench formed by the sea walls on the north and the dams of several conservancies on our south.
No matter what we do, when the rains come down, the water has nowhere to go until the next low tide, when the kokers can be opened.
In the interval, if we have blocked drains and culverts that carry the water to canals and trenches, and then filled up those canals and trenches that acted as reservoirs, we ought not to be surprised that water will soon rise above our ankles and beyond.
We are hoping that the precipitous rise in food prices and the commensurate increase in kitchen gardens will focus the minds of our people in maintaining discipline: vegetables will perish if their roots are water-logged. And this brings us to the larger picture that demands a greater vigilance to keep out the water.
The opportunities open to us as a nation with the global shortage in food and grains will be lost if we cannot get our water drainage woes behind us. As we have emphasized repeatedly in our editorials, our interior is not as fertile, or accessible, to us at this time as the coast, where most of us reside.
If we all accept that it is a national imperative to control our propensity to flooding, then we may be able to make hay during the May-June rains, even when the sun isn’t shining.
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