Kaieteur News – The weather outlook does not appear favourable. Rains are forecast for the next week and over the next few days intense showers are expected.
High intensity rainfall poses the greatest threat to flooding. It is therefore critically important that there is the right coordination to ensure that as much water is cleared off the land and out of the primary drainage canals before the heavy showers descend.
The President has to be commended for his hands-on approach to the present crisis. It remains a crisis because of the slow rate at which the water is removed from the land through gravity and mechanical flow. And with high intensity rainfall forecast and the soils saturated, there will be accumulation of water on the land since the rate of rainfall will be far higher than the rate of discharge. That is why the message of the President should be heeded; there can be no rest when it comes to pumping the water off the land or draining it by gravity flow. The trenches and main drainage canals must be kept low if we are going to avoid another 2005 flood.
In 2015 there was massive flooding in Georgetown following high-intensity rainfall. A Dutch Flood Risk Reduction Team came and prepared a report. Based on their report a group of students came and prepared another report. The recommendations of the two reports were not much different and both said that the country’s residents have to learn to live with water. The reports recommended attention be paid to upgrading the modelling capacity, developing a flood hazard map of the city, examining the feasibility of small-scale floating dredges for the city and to start operations, and improve data collection.
These types of recommendations are perhaps not what the APNU+AFC was anticipating. It may account for why little action was taken by them in respect to development of the capabilities recommended in the reports.
The Coalition may have been expecting a road map or a list of engineering projects as recommendations. But what the teams were telling them was that any recommendations had to be based on certain technical evidence and assessments and this is why there was the need for modelling flood risks, improving data collection and developing a map of flood risks areas in the city. These were the technical prerequisites which would inform the right interventions.
As things happened, five years went by and the same old solutions which have never worked were pursued: putting in more pumps and occasionally cleaning a few drains. Nothing really has changed and five years onward, the city is no better prepared to deal with flooding than it was in 2015.
This is why what we are witnessing is this constant blame-game and excuse making. The APNU+AFC say that the flooding is as a result of the government’s neglect of the country’s drainage infrastructure. The Opposition in making this assessment is condemning itself because the present administration has only been in office for nine months and if there is any neglected drainage infrastructure it had to have been inherited from the APNU+AFC time in office.
When it comes to the city, the government is blaming the City Council for not supervising the operations of the kokers and pumps. The problem is however, not so simple.
It is far more complex. The city’s drainage system has been terribly compromised over the years. The second Dutch team which came made the observation that the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown was in possession of a map showing drains and canals in great detail. However, the team found that the accuracy and relevance of the map was checked and it did not resemble the system as it is functioning in 2016.
The city’s primary drainage canals are not what they used to be like and now have to take off more water from expanded catchment areas as a result of the creation of new housing and industrial developments.
As a result of this, storage of water is a problem. The canals have long been silted and hold far less water than before. The outfalls no longer discharge as much water as they used to because they too are heavily silted.
The lessons of the 2005 floods have been overlooked. If since then one outfall each year had been dredged using a small floating pontoon and excavator, the problems of flooding would have been mitigated. But here we are, 16 years later, facing the same problems: poor storage, poor discharge and poor modelling and mapping of flood risks.
The more things change in Guyana, the more they remain the same. We never learn.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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