Agri Minister announces alerts, 2005 rainfall levels forecast

– as La Nina returns

Flash flooding and thunderstorms with gusty winds are forecast for the end of the year along with rainfall levels similar to what obtained in 2005 and Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud is urging persons in vulnerable areas to be on the alert.

Yesterday, during a presentation in the Ministry’s Boardroom of preparations for the expected La Nina conditions, Minister Robert Persaud said 70 per cent of rainfall is expected for the season with in excess of 3¼ inches of rainfall expected on some days.

“Some of the predictions indicate that we might be getting rainfall levels which we had in 2005. Having said that, the NDIA, as the coordinating entity, for several months now has been working in terms of preparations and activities… putting in place a number of flood prevention and water management [initiatives] across the country,” Persaud stated.

According to the Chief Hydromet Officer Bhaleka Seulall, recent statistics and forecast model indicate that the event is expected to sustain or increase its strength and persist at least through the normal La Nina lifecycle into the first quarter.

“Guyana can expect above normal rainfall during this rainy season. There will be days of heavy downpours with occasional lightning and thunder and gusty winds. Residents, particularly those in low-lying and flood prone areas, should take the necessary precautions against flash floods during this period,” she said.
Persaud cautioned the public that notwithstanding the preparations and activities by the ministry “we cannot avoid or prevent flash flooding and there will be flash flooding. I want to put the entire coast and even the hinterland regions on full alert,” Persaud stressed.

He said the ministry will be deploying all the assets and taking proactive steps including having extension staff fully mobilised to respond to the agriculture side “be it the crops and livestock because we also want continued production both for the local market as well for the overseas market”.

The minister also expressed the hope for early response groups at the community level to minimise damage by residents and farmers. The Civil Defence Commission and other related bodies have been notified if they are needed to respond.

In the meantime, Persaud urged persons living in areas prone to flooding to call on the ministry’s extension staff for advice and take necessary precautions. Further, SMS systems and the internet will be set up to issue alerts.

Expressing his disappointment with the reliability of the state television on broadcasting of the weather, Persaud said, “I have given clear instructions, starting next week it [the weather forecast] will be produced and made available to all newscasts.”

Meanwhile at the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority level drainage projects have been implemented to improve and sustain the performance of the drainage and irrigation systems in the agricultural areas of Regions Two, Six and Ten.

According to Persaud, the cost of these works comes from monies budgeted for the ministry. He explained that 70 per cent of the ministry’s budgeted money is spent on drainage and irrigation.

Head of the NDIA Lionel Wordsworth went through a PowerPoint presentation of all the works being undertaken in the various regions. He pointed out that mobile drainage pumps and dredging pontoons and other equipment have been deployed in the various regions.

Regions Two, Three, Four, Five and Six and GuySuCo were given various numbers of mobile pumps to aid in the drainage. The drainage system consists of a total of 113 drainage pumps of various capacities. NDIA has deployed its 23 mobile pumps to the regions.

Further, each region including the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) and the Boerasirie Water Conservancy (BWC) has received a number of excavators to undertake critical drainage works. The NDIA has fabricated two special 250-tonne pontoons, which utilise four long-reach excavators to dredge silted outfall channels in Regions Four, Five, Three and Six.

Other works include an engineer for each region, and reinforced personnel. A new pump at Greenfield is to be completed along with a new outlet in Mahaicony, the creation of a parallel canal which it is hoped will come on
stream very soon.

Some 3,000 personnel have been deployed to clean the primary waterways so that they are functional. The conservancies have all been dropped to their minimum levels to ensure storage for the rainfall.

However, some of the challenges the teams are facing, Wordsworth said, are negligence by koker attendants or operators, dumping of garbage and other implements in the drainage systems and encumbrances on drain-age reserves.

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