National restoration task force to complete draft plan in October

-Flatts says city drainage needs more outfalls, pumps

The National Task Force (NTF) for the Rehabilitation, Restoration and Renewal of Guyana has until October to finish its draft plan which is to include an expected 2016 capital budget for the first phase of the initiative.

For 2015 the NTF Commission is set to receive $36M for the administrative work for the eight-person team. At a press briefing held at the Ministry of Public Infrastructure yesterday, Chairman of the Commission, Major General (rtd) Joseph Singh revealed that for the month of September the commission will be collecting data from research and will hold public consultations that will aid in the development of the draft restoration plan.

He noted that the Commission is charged with overviewing the process in a comprehensive manner which will see its six committees tackling the most important areas identified. He said that the commission will have a foundation at all levels of local government and this will allow for adequate reporting and compiling of information. He placed heavy emphasis on the role the Communities Ministry will play in the process.

Singh denied that the process could become too bureaucratic when asked by Stabroek News and noted that the commission will not be involved at the day-to-day level but instead will operate at an administrative level collecting the information through the various committees. This will allow for the use of research both old and new to recommend measures for the upgrading of existing systems.

He said that by May 2016, Guyana’s Independence Jubilee, a budget will be prepared that will aim at comprehensively dealing with flood prone areas during heavy rainfall.

The Commission will focus on drainage, solid waste management and removal of derelict vehicles, traffic management, welfare management of the homeless, as well as sustainability in the Hinterland and another attempt at rebranding Guyana and changing behaviour as it relates to responsibility towards the environment.

The focus of the task force has taken on a larger mandate than was initially discussed by Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson in June when he spoke about the Public Infrastructure Task Force assessing and holistically approaching drainage and irrigation reform for the city. The task force was approved by cabinet and allotted $75M in emergency funding.

The NTF Commission will include a convener for a National Drainage Committee, Frederick Flatts; Solid Waste Management Committee, Gordon Gilkes; Traffic Management Committee, Geoffrey Vaughn; Sustainable Physical Renewal Country-wide Committee, Damian Fernandes; Welfare Management of the Homeless, Addicts and Mentally Challenged Committee, Donna Short-Gill; Public and Stakeholder Consultation Committee, Alex Graham. They will all work alongside Coordinator for the Commission Dr Dewnaught Punalall.

Singh stated that the intention was to get the committees to research and compile their individual plans which will then be implemented under the relevant ministries. He noted that the cost of such works would be very large but said that they would not at this stage of the commission’s life comment on just how large the financial requirement will be.

He said that for the first phase of the task force, the drainage committee would need to make recommendations to reduce obstructions of drains and for the desilting of canals to allow for the flow of water while the sustainable physical renewal committee would need to look at tackling non-environmentally friendly practices inclusive of working with the former committee to locate covered drainage systems that were illegally enveloped in urban planning.

He said, however, that much of the funding will be project-based and as a result Guyana would qualify for many initiatives for loans through the various development banks along with the receipt of grants.

Speaking on behalf of the Drainage Committee, Flatts, who also heads the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, stated that the goal was to relieve flooding along the coast, but noted that in the case of Georgetown more outfalls will need to be constructed along with the installation of more fixed and mobile pumps. Flatts noted that Georgetown’s current capacity to handle 1.5 inches of rainfall every 24 hours meant that more physical infrastructure was needed to discharge water faster than it can accumulate.