A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) blames the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration for yet another catastrophic coastal flood on Thursday 20th November 2014. The Partnership repeats its earlier calls on the Government to launch a comprehensive national flood control plan to protect the population from the ravages of repeated flooding.
The extent, intensity and frequency of flooding are unmistakable. Flooding on Thursday 20th November alone affected areas in Queenstown in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region (No. 2); the Canals Polder, Belle Vue Housing Scheme, Good Fortuin and Crane Housing Scheme in the Essequibo Islands-West Demerara region (No.3) and Georgetown and Strathavon in the Demerara-Mahaica Region (No.4).
APNU has noted with alarm that the PPP/C Administration seems to be unwilling to learn from past experience, unable to conduct a comprehensive investigation to determine the causes of recurrent flooding and unprepared to implement measures to notify the populace and to mitigate the impact of this hazard.
APNU asserts that, notwithstanding the extraordinary rainfall, much of the human discomfort was caused by mismanagement and neglect. The Government – through the Ministry of Agriculture (which embodies the Hydrometeorological Department and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority); the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development which micro-manages the municipal and neighborhood councils; the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; the Ministry of Public Works and the Office of the President (which controls the Civil Defence Commission) – must bear the blame for Thursday’s disaster.
APNU is concerned that this pattern of monthly flooding continues to incur incalculable personal losses in terms of damage to homes, household goods and domestic and agricultural equipment, the destruction of farms, the death of livestock and the spread of water-borne diseases in places where pit-latrines are still in common use. Schools and business places, invariably, have to be closed; road traffic is disrupted and garbage and other waste float onto parapets and roadways.
APNU recalls that an Inter-American Development Bank study reported that, from 1988 to 2006, floods affected 965,000 persons and resulted in more than US$663M in economic damage. The ‘Great Flood’ reportedly affected 25 per cent of the national population and caused economic losses equivalent to 60 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for that year.
The IDB study pointed out, further: “a result of the dynamic interplay between high tides, high rainfall levels and a network of drainage and irrigation canals, conservancy dams and sluices designed to support agriculture, the coastland, as well as riverine areas and some low-lying parts of the hinterland, are at high risk to flooding.”
It is a well-known fact that Guyana’s coastal zone lies near or below sea level. The rate of sea-level rise in the Caribbean is predicted to be five times greater than the world’s average, according to the IDB study. This means that sea-level rise resulting from global warming could “significantly increase disaster risk in Guyana to levels that threaten the physical and economic viability of the coastal zone.”
APNU repeats its call on the PPP/C Administration to promulgate a National Flood Control Master Plan that must comprehend the consequences of climate change that are so evident to everyone else. Such a Plan must be capable of anticipating the monthly cycle of flooding and of notifying citizens early of the onset of extreme weather and the threat of flooding. The Plan must strengthen disaster risk management agencies and maintain flood protection infrastructure.
The Plan, most of all, must embody a strategy to protect lives and property from the consequences of the devastating floods of the sort that have affected our country over the past decade.