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Guyana is moving from one crisis to another, and it seems as though there is no serious national effort if not to avoid them at least to effectively manage them. The flood waters inundating the city, towns and villages as a result of heavy rainfall and overflowing of the Berbice River, as in the case of Kwakwani, are much cause for concern. The situation not only shows a crisis in management but also is putting at risk the health of Guyanese and forcing them to have to accept loss and damage to possession and livelihood.
The drainage and irrigation infrastructures are poorly managed. In the case of Georgetown, which is below sea level, these should be a major priority for the government. The management of these infrastructures should have seen collaborative efforts with Central, Regional and Local governments with the Central government providing the necessary human and technical resources. It is poor management that would fail to put in place preventative and maintenance measures and when crises like these occur then scramble to act. It is shortsightedness and lack of planning.
This is not the first time flooding has happened in Guyana. By now it is expected, having previous experiences, the authorities would have a well worked out flood management plan. It is inhumane on the government’s part to know rain is part of Guyana’s weather pattern yet allow citizens to suffer losses as a result of flooding, to then turn around and offer relief supplies through the Civil Defence Commission when it could have been prevented in the first instance. And even though the humanitarian gestures by the government will be based on their assessment not all the people affected will benefit.
It is sad to watch people struggling to save their hard-earned possessions, to protect their livestock, and accepting the fact that their crops may not be saved. Guyana is a poor country and is poorly managed. When the poor are trying to eke out a living for themselves and improve their standard of living it is painful to have these destroyed through disaster that could have been better managed. There is no compensation for loss and damage to properties and the ordinary man is expected to grit his teeth, suffer his pains, and move on.
The flood waters also pose challenges to health. There is concern about the water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, gastroenteritis and typhoid which. As the country battles COVID-19 and people are having to engage in preventative measures, it would be difficult to manage the pandemic and the flood crisis together.
This flood crisis could contribute to the intensification of the pandemic because in a crisis the first thing people think about is survival not health. It is simply overwhelming. It is heartrending to see homes inundated with water as though not constructed there but floated away through some major disaster like hurricane when Guyana does not suffer the occurrence. Enough is not being done by the government on the coastland to protect the waterways and ensure free outflows.
Drainage and irrigation along with sea defences should be top priority in national defence. People prefer that rather than the government coming after a crisis offering words of assurance, shelter and food supplies. There will always be rains and with Climate Change heavier and unpredictable rainfalls. It is not rocket science in light of Guyana’s sea level situation, that there should be a national exercise to unclog the drains, cease the filling up of drains inherited from the Dutch (who understands water management), and start desilting the Rivers. These are priorities to better manage rainfall and flooding. The government has to do better and must do better. The poor man has had enough and cannot suffer more.