Flood early warning for Upper Mahaica

A significant amount of flood mapping for the communities of Little and Big Biabu in Upper Mahaica has been completed and an early warning system is being piloted in the area.

Meanwhile, water level gauges have been installed at Little Biabu, Maduni and St. Cuthbert’s Mission, the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) said in a statement yesterday. In addition, the CDC said that a rain gauge has also been installed at St. Cuthbert’s Mission.

The JICA experts

The CDC made these disclosures, along with specialists of the Japanese Inter-national Cooperation Agen-cy, when they  briefed representatives of the relevant stakeholder groups on the status of the Caribbean Disaster Management Phase 11 Project involving Upper Mahaica communities at CDC headquarters at Thomas Lands yesterday.

After evaluating the extent to which the identified communities are affected by flooding, the objectives of this pilot project are to map the communities’ possible flood zones, establish an Early Warning System (EWS) and Evacuation Response mechanisms as well as the siting of Emer-gency Shelters to ensure that the exposure of the residents in the communities to potential flood hazard is minimized, the CDC explained.

The entire project, the statement added,  is geared towards  reducing the exposure of the citizens in the catchment area to flood devastation of their economic and personal well-being.

And with the help of the community, the JICA team has been able to identify and demarcate, using digital GPS technology, the areas surrounding the community which are prone to flooding.

Moreover, draft maps have been compiled but these are to be modified and finalized by the team.

The briefing was also meant to allow stakeholders such as the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), the University of Guyana (UG), Lands and Surveys Commis-sion, Hydromet Department and Guyana Forestry Com-mission to join with the JICA experts to review, modify and finalise the maps using GIS.

Meanwhile, apart from a flood survey, a Community Plan and Emergency Response Committee have been established and EWS put in place.

It was reported that the EWS is already functioning in some regards as it has been set up in such a manner that key personnel at critical stakeholder agencies such as the Hydromet Department, East Demerara Water Conservancy, NDIA and the CDC have been receiving alarms which go to their phones and to which they can respond as required, the statement noted.

Since it is a pilot project requiring real-world testing, the current rainy season is thought to be critical for data gathering and the subsequent correlation of the data with the practical information, response and other mitigation steps to be taken in the event of a hazardous occurrence. According to JICA expert Imai, it is envisaged that after comprehensive data gathering and analysis from now to the end of 2013, the CDC and its partner agencies will to be in a better position to witness the rewards of the overall project.

Speaking to the issue, CDC Director General, Colonel (Ret’d) Chabilall Ramsarup, said once the systems for this project work successfully, similar applications and interventions could then be implemented in other flood prone communities.

The project is critical to ensuring a high degree of preparedness and response capability for the target communities.  The communities are located just east, outside of the East Demerara Water Conservancy which is fed in its uppermost reaches by the Mahaica and Maduni Rivers.

Similar projects are being conducted in Belize, Dominica, Grenada and St Lucia.

The statement said further that over the next few days the CDC, its stakeholders and the JICA team will travel to the community to work at completing the map after which final drafts and the EWS will be presented to the CDC.

Additionally, there will be a practical testing of the EWS and an evacuation drill.  The Guyana Red Cross, the Forestry Commission and the Geology and Mines Com-mission are also involved in the project.

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