The rains have come with an intensity which would be considered, in the old days, as moderate. Yet the whole coast is flooded. The rivers are swollen in some riverain communities.
There is no doubt in my mind that the levels of rainfall today are no different from what fell in the past. There was always flooding, but the run-off was rapid and the destruction of crops and infrastructure such as roads was always far less than they are today.
The problem with flooding in Guyana has been over-diagnosed. The causal factors have been reduced to clogged drains, silted outfalls and the concreting over of parapets and reserves which have reduced water absorption.
The solutions are obvious. Just correct these problems and the flooding will end. Right? Not quite. Flooding will not disappear even if all the things that people propose are done.
The reason is simple. The infrastructure which was built to drain our coastland was premised on the fact that accumulation in times of heavy rainfall was unavoidable, but the water would eventually be removed off the land. This is why houses were built on silts.
The drainage infrastructure of Guyana is outdated and outmoded. It is not intended to provide same-day drainage when rainfall levels are in excess of 3 inches or 75mm. Less than that now causes serious flooding.
There is need for modern thinking in terms of our drainage systems. Gravity drainage is going to be too slow to deal with flooding caused by climate change. Pumps are not as efficient in removing flood waters as kokers are.
The flood infrastructure has to be changed. We can no longer expect gravity and pumps to drainage the coastland. It simply will no longer work. The alternatives will be costly and perhaps unaffordable until Guyana finds oil. But there are some things which should be considered.
The first is to establish massive holding areas for water along the East Coast. This can be one area for diversification of GuySuCo. Instead of forming an agricultural corporation, form a company to help the country fight flooding.
The government has to keep the private sector out of developing or maintaining the country’s flood infrastructure. It is in the interest of the private sector to ensure that drainage is improved but not enough to make private contractors redundant.
Why should private contractors provide alterative solutions to government when these private contractors benefit every time there is need for drainage works.
The state should take over drainage, and this is where GuySuCo can come in. It should offer, for a fee, to manage the country’s drainage systems, half of which, in any event belong to the sugar company.
The second should be, where possible, to have two kokers instead of one at a particular location. This will allow for twice the discharge of water. Adjusting the infrastructure to double the drainage will cause a dramatic reduction in flooding.
There are many other things which can be done to improve the drainage infrastructure. The government has to think outside of the box. It cannot continue, year after year, to be pouring monies into finding solutions to flooding caused by heavy rainfall. Drainage solutions are no longer rocket science.
Every house should be required to have a vat to store rainwater for use in gardening. GWI water should not be used for watering plants and gardens. The government should share out vats to collect rainwater. Rainwater should also be used for washing your car and your yard.
Six million gallons of rainwater can be collected and stored each month by citizens in vats. The more rainwater that is collected and stored by private citizens, means the less that will be available to overtop the drains and canals.
The government should cease trying to fix the system, it should employ new technologies and construct new infrastructure to finally rid Guyana of this flooding which arises after any heavy downpour.
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