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Yesterday Georgetown was besieged by flood waters everywhere. Roads look like rivers, pedestrians found it difficult to differentiate the sidewalks from the road and drainage. Yards of homes and businesses were flooded and the markets looked like rivers. Businesses and individuals have suffered millions of dollars in damages. Guyana does not have insurance for these types of disasters leaving victims to suffer losses without some form of compensation. This situation could have been better managed, if not avoided, knowing it is a likely occurrence. As Member of Parliament and former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson said, “preventative maintenance is a year-round activity not a political gimmick.”
According to the former minister “the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has reduced drainage of the city and low-lying areas to photoshoots once a year, calling it ‘National Clean Up Day,’ which is just [President Irfaan] Ali and crew, posing for the cameras with a broom in hand. And true to nature, when the city floods, they blame sleeping pump attendants.”
Patterson, who had responsibility for this area, said by 2015-i.e., when the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) was elected to government- the drainage network was a complete mess, several pumps were not working, outfalls were not cleared for years, business were allowed to block drains, in one case a private business even shut off access to the pump and koker, and cooperation with the Georgetown Mayor and City Council was non-existence.
“After a major flood in 2015, just days after assuming office the APNU+AFC administration called all stakeholders together, irrespective of their political affiliation and re-habituated all the pumps, sluices, and outfalls – joined with all the communities to clean all the secondary drainage – this was a year-round effort, not just a photo shoot and publicity stunt.”
According to the former minister, the APNU+AFC took a proactive approach to water management and flooding. “Before every rain season (during the dry season), we would lower the water levels in all canals and primary waterways, so that when the rains come, they would be able to retain more water, the ministry would establish a sand bank, which was we placed heaps of sand in various locations, and had staff available to fill sandbags for any citizen (staff was available 24 hours to assist in filling sandbags).”
Further, “hotlines were established for senior citizens and vulnerable persons to call, and they were helped free of cost.”
Patterson also said unless the drains are kept clean and the environment tidy, to enable the smooth flood of the rain waters, flooding will continue to be an issue, and with the PPP refusing to adequately finance M&CC, Tuesday’s flooding will become a regular event , even as he warned the worst is yet to come.
Under the coalition government Patterson made known that cognisant of the rainy season, by now the temporary pumps were already installed around the city to assist in drainage, pumps would be running 24 hours, not just during the high tide period. “The PPP has dismantled all the systems that were in place, without any adequate replacement.”
According to him the PPP will use Tuesday’s event to go on another sending spree, awarding huge contracts to their friends and families, they will setup yet another task force, distribute moneys to their supporters in yet another “flood relief program” – however it will be of little use, preventative maintenance is a year-round activity not a political gimmick.
“The fact is that they are clueless and uncaring!”