The Regional Nine council studying a proposal for the establishment of a permanent disaster preparedness committee for the region, after last year’s devastating floods.
The Rupununi was inundated for several days last June and several communities, including Lethem, Aishalton and southern villages, were affected as many persons were forced to evacuate their homes for makeshift shelters.
Recently, the new Regional Democratic Council (RDC) met and several proposals, including the establishment of the committee and initiatives aimed at sustaining the livelihoods of families using agriculture, were brought to the fore.
Regional Chairman Douglas Casimero told this newspaper on Wednesday that the proposal remains on paper and will be examined when the council meets in the coming weeks.
He said that it is an issue which will be addressed in its entirety, while noting that it is good for the region. The plan is said to be broad-based and will include the training of persons in relief efforts, among other areas.
Councillor Carl Parker told this newspaper recently that he proposed that the establishment of the committee be undertaken with the input of all stakeholders, including residents, the military, the police, non-governmental organisations such as the Guyana Red Cross and the business community. He said that each year the region experiences floods and he noted that last year’s flooding impacted greatly on the region, affecting business, agriculture as well as travel to and from the region, among other areas.
Parker said that during last year’s floods an ad-hoc committee, which was tasked with addressing the situation at the time, encountered great difficulties. He noted that as the flood waters rose, it was evident that a uniform plan of action needed to be implemented.
According to him, while the situation was addressed by the authorities, politics influenced the handling of the situation and many persons suffered losses.
He noted, however, that the situation needs to be examined from all quarters, since in addition to flooding, other potential disasters can happen at any time, while noting that area also experienced droughts in the past.
Residents noted recently that the regional hospital was deficient in various ways, including the availability of drugs, a competent management body as well as the availability of a plan of action in the event that the hospital is called upon to address a disaster.
It was noted by a retired health professional that Lethem and the outlying communities depend on the medical opportunities available in neighbouring Brazil on many occasions, since the hospital in the region lacked several key facilities.
As a result, she said that even if a plan is put in place, the area will remain at a disadvantage should a disaster strike.
“Lethem is developing rapidly and if there were to be a fire or a major accident along the roadway involving multiple cases, I don’t think the medical people here could handle it,” the woman stated. She said too that if a major fire is to strike in the Lethem area, “I can’t imagine what may happen but we have to hope we do not have fatalities rather than losses.”
Since a major fire struck at Lethem two years ago, destroying the Wayka business complex, there had been a plan to set up a fire unit. Following several subsequent fires, including one at the hospital last year, calls have continued for the unit to be set up.
Casimero noted that the plan remains on paper and he is still being briefed on the work of the previous officer. But, according to him, the plan will be addressed to ensure the fire unit is established soon. “It’s a good idea and will be beneficial to the whole region, so I hope it comes to reality,” he said.
Meanwhile, the regional authorities are expected to address several plans for the North Rupununi area aimed at identifying projects to sustain the livelihoods of several communities. Several NGOs will be engaged in order to secure funding for projects, including the establishment of community-based projects such as peanut butter enterprises and cassava mills.