President David Grainger may not have been around, or may have been too young to recall what Georgetown really looked like around 1945 – 1950, but there are some senior citizens, still alive, who probably can.
Georgetown’s eastern boundary ended at Alexander Village, with Ruimveldt, being canefields, on the south and east of it. La Penitence and Albouystown on the north, extended as far as the western end of Le Repentir Cemetery. Canefields continued east.
The Cemetery ended about a hundred meters east of Cemetery Road, and swampy bush, which was the beginnings of D’Urban Backlands continued east and north, in back of the Botanical Gardens and Lodge. Newtown, Kitty or New Kitty was plotted out south of the Lamaha trench, with Vlissingen Road being its western boundary, and would continue, eventually, to the Botanical Gardens.
The picture being painted here is a city, Georgetown that was much smaller than what it is today. Georgetown also had a much smaller population, but it had more trenches. As the population increased, trenches were filled in to create open spaces, roads and some building units.
It must be noted that trenches in Georgetown, performed two functions; one, they collected used water from the human population and rainfall, which following a natural gradient, was drained into the Demerara River, and two, they acted as reservoirs until the tide flowed out, and caused water to empty out of the trenches, which were being regulated by flood gates called kokers.
The volume of water pouring out of the kokers would be relatively constant.
If there is more water to be drained in the given length of time low tide afforded, that water will remain in the trenches. In this manner, there was always some level of water in the trenches, since the population would still be dumping used water into the drains, which flowed into the trenches.
Georgetown is some two meters below sea level, and water does not flow upwards, the system depended, until recently, to some extent, on the movement of the tides.
This system always caused some level of flooding in the city. This flooding was relatively insignificant, with swollen drains and alleyways and some yards, rarely any roads, water did not stick around past one day, most of the time. This temporary flooding was usually a minor inconvenience.
As the population grew, over the years, in Georgetown, it became evident that the trenches were unable to meet a quantity of water that now had far exceeded their reservoir limits.
If we include negligent maintenance of the drainage system, a propensity for people to discard their ever increasing amount of trash and garbage in to the drains and trenches, and the decreasing number of trenches, we have the formula for systematic and prolonged flooding, which presented very serious consequences during the peak seasonal rainfall.
Flooding had now reached epic proportions.
Flash forward to the present, politically speaking. No solution(s) to the flooding/drainage problem has been offered.
Among the political name-calling and blaming, a few pumps were installed, feeble efforts were made to clean the drains and trenches, and some repairs were made to a few kokers, but the flooding continued, as increasing population meant increasing waste water being dumped into the drains, which were being selectively filled in, in the name of progress,
The question that should be asked is, not how to reduce flooding in Georgetown, but how to permanently eliminate flooding, period?
Pumping out flood waters at a higher rate may work but the cost would very well be prohibitive, with a high maintenance value attached to it. It seems increasing the storage capacity of the trenches would be a permanent solution with the added perks of making it a profitable enterprise.
How can this be done?
_ select five kokers from Meadowbrook/Houston to Kingston and rebuild them to a size of 10 meters wide by 10 meters deep
– Select five canal sites, north/south, with theTurkeyen/Cummings Lodge trench being the first one in the east
– These ten canals at approximately 1500 meters long would create a continuous reservoir of approx. 1.5 million cubic meters of water.
– Soil removed from the canals could be used to raise street and ground level.
– Clay bricks, which have proven their lasting ability since Romans times, can be used to make three feet thick walls and floor. This would drastically reduce the cost of construction.
An army corps of engineers with 3000 workers, most of whom are minimum wage employees, should be considered.
The potential here is enormous, but I will leave it up to the readers to offer comments.
Albert R. Cumberbatch, Ph. D.
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