World Bank approves US$11M to fight flooding

The World Bank yesterday approved a $2.2 billion (US$11 million) loan for Guyana to improve drainage in areas on the East Demerara and upgrade critical sections of the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC).

In a statement, the Washington-based organisation said that more than 300,000 people from the flood-prone region of East Demerara will benefit from reduced flooding and climate risks as a result of the US$11 million credit from the Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the loan yesterday as well as another US$10 million for education.

The flood project will see the upgrading of critical sections of the EDWC dams and channels, the improvement of drainage capacity in priority areas along the East Demerara and increased flood preparedness by installing instruments to monitor hydro-meteorological data.

The World Bank noted that nearly 90 percent of Guyana’s population lives on the narrow coastal plain, largely below sea level and vulnerable to climate change. The statement recalled that extreme rainfall in 2005 resulted in flooding and damage estimated at nearly 60 percent of GDP or US$465 million at the time. “The impact on poverty was evident and many subsistence farmers, small business operators and vendors were affected,” the statement said.

Overtopping of the EDWC dam in 2005 was a key contributor to the sustained flooding. Sections of it are vulnerable to extreme weather events and need upgrading. There have been several warning about this.

US$7 million has been budgeted for Component 1 of the project – Upgrading the EWDC Dam and Drainage System – and this will include upgrading and reconstruction of critical parts of the EDWC dam and critical improvements to existing relief structures including safety improvements and widening of drainage canals.

Component 2 – Upgrading the East Coast Drainage System (US$3.19 million) – will see investments being made to improve the coastal drainage systems including the installation of pumps; reconstruction of culverts and widening of canals. Component 3- Manage-ment and Planning Support (US$0.7 million) – will provide planning support to allow for the identification and the preparation of further investment works and will also assist in the establishment of monitoring systems and collection of data for planning. It will also support the operating costs and specialized consultants for the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agricultural Sector Development Unit (ASDU) to execute the project.

According to World Bank documents, the project will follow the same implementing arrangements outlined under the Conservancy Adaptation Project (CAP), with the Agriculture Sector Deve-lopment Unit (ASDU) within the Ministry of Agriculture being the Project Implementing Agency. ASDU will also manage the fiduciary, safeguards and administrative aspects of the project and the procurement process, including issuance of the tenders, undertaking financial reporting for the project, and making payments to contractors.


Limited technical capacity


The Bank said that the CAP programme design recognized that ASDU had limited technical capacity to prepare safeguards documents and monitor implementation, and would need extensive support from the Bank. “This support was received, and capacity has since increased. The Bank has taken and will continue to take measures to strengthen ASDU and its fiduciary capacities through fiduciary and financial management training, provision of advice on an ongoing basis and close monitoring and support,” the Bank said.

Since the Great Flood of 2005, the World Bank has been working with government and other donor agencies in the development of a comprehensive strategy to increase the drainage capacity of the EDWC and coastal drainage systems. In the wake of the flood, government had requested the Bank’s assistance in accessing resources from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and supporting its efforts to mitigate the country’s vulnerabilities to flooding.

The US$3.8 million CAP was one of the first to be funded under the GEF Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). It was developed as a way to identify key future interventions and provide the donor community with a strategic master plan of pre-designed priority works, generating comprehensive hydrological and topographical datasets as well as hydraulic studies and modelling to inform government’s decision makers.

The project concluded last year and at a seminar in March, it was stated that consultants have recommended US$123 million in remedial work for coastal drainage. At that time, the government had said that it only had US$11M available. It seems this figure is what was yesterday approved by the World Bank. It raises the question as to why the government is not allocating its own funds for this project.

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