Compensating flood victims

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As Guyanese look on in bewilderment at the flood waters inundating their homes, businesses, livestock and crops, aside from seeking to save what they can they will have to rebuild. Some of the floods could have been avoided had the government effectively managed the drainage and irrigation systems. Some of the floods are due to Climate Change, resulting in drastic change in weather patterns, and other destructive acts by man such as uprooting the mangroves.

The government cannot ignore the probability that had they responded to the floods in a different manner they could have reduced the loss citizens are suffering. Our Wednesday publication carried a letter by former Minister of Public Infrastructure, Mr. David Patterson, in the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government sharing the strategy he used to manage crises of this nature.

Mr. Patterson said mere days after the APNU+AFC assumed office, “An assessment of our drainage infrastructure discovered that: of the 13 sluices that drained Georgetown, only 4 were operable; of the 7 pumps, only 2 were functioning; none of the outfalls were dredged in years; private businesses had paved over several important waterways. In fact, 2 sluices were actually controlled by private businesses, hence we had to seek permission from the owners to even access these structures. Our entire drainage network had collapsed causing sections of our city to flood and remain so for days.”
This is a disturbing admission and may help in explaining why during heavy rains and high tide prior to the APNU+AFC time there was so much destruction and damage from floods. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic, when in opposition, would have noted the difference in flood management during the APNU+AFC. Thus, it is not an unfair expectation by citizens to expect at least a similar response as the APNU+AFC or better.

In the letter Mr. Patterson explained they repaired and upgraded “all the sluices, repairing, or replacing all the pumps and dredging all the waterways, thus bringing much needed relief to our city, [and] within a year…[the] drainage network was able to effectively drain as much as 2.5” of rainfall in a single day.” He also noted that apart from fixing the physical infrastructure there were working relations between the City Council and Central Government to ensure sluices or pumping stations were operable when needed.

It would be good news to the ears of Guyanese had Mr. Patterson’s strategy been left in place, given experience of how fast flood waters receded and consequently reduced destruction and loss. Guyanese are presently losing hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth in property, moveable and otherwise.  Many have nowhere to turn. They know not how or when they will be able to replace what they have lost or were damaged. There is no promise by the Central Government to compensate the affected. Hire purchase businesses, car dealers, the banks, etc., will still expect to be paid for the items purchased and the loans taken.

People must pay their debts but have nowhere to turn for assistance. The flooding has left many without food and shelter, depending on the government for relief packages. Some do not even know if or when they will get relief.  In spite of all the sufferings when the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) closes their tents people will have to pick up the pieces by themselves. According to the CDC at least 7000 households have been affected by the flood. Though the number appears conservative it is still 7000 too much. Things are hard for the poor. It sometimes feels even when the poor try to pull themselves up they are being beaten down.

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