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President Irfaan Ali over the weekend did a walkabout in South and North Georgetown. In some instances, wading through water-a result of government poor management of the drainage and irrigation systems-residents were told of the government’s intent to “engage the communities on a few things and one is flooding.”
Guyana’s coastline is below sea level. Whilst the land is expected to have the occasional deluge of water, particularly during high tide and heavy rainfalls, proper water management requires building and operational maintenance of infrastructures like seawalls, cleared drainage, working pumps, desilting of the River. Appropriate resources, human, capital and infrastructures, could make this possible.
According to a Department of Public Information release, the president informed residents that a team of engineers will do an initial assessment of the situation and when that is completed, they will consult with the residents to find the best way forward to solving the flooding problem.
Management of drainage and irrigation in the City is a shared responsibility between the Central Government and the City Council. Citizens’ education, awareness and input are important in management in the context of personal responsibility for taking care of their surroundings. Ordinary citizens are without the required competency and resources to design, build and maintain the requisite structures to mitigate flooding.
During the walk-about the president and team also inspected conditions of the roads, drains and the community centre ground. An on the spot commitment was made to the residents that the government, using the people’s resources, will rehabilitate the community ground and repair the building.
Development of Georgetown, as with any local government authority, requires money. Central Government allocation of money to the local authorities and the authorities being able to collect rates and taxes, particularly from government and businesses, have been a long-running contentious issue.
More than $16 billion is owed to the City Council. Last December the Council declared an eight-month period of amnesty for defaulters and has been imploring residents and businesses, including the government, to come forward and pay their taxes. Mayor Pandit Ubraj Narine said the City also faces the situation where some businesses are cheating the system by paying residential taxes instead of the appropriate commercial rates.