Bulkan heads task force to improve city drainage

-long-term strategy to be presented to Cabinet

Cabinet has agreed to the creation of an inter-agency task force to manage and improve the drainage of the capital city, State Minister Joseph Harmon announced yesterday.

Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency, Harmon said Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan would coordinate the work of the task force, which would be required to produce a long-term strategy to address Georgetown’s drainage problems.

He noted that when the issue was discussed at this week’s Cabinet meeting, it was concluded that it required “special attention,” hence the task force. He said the Georgetown city council, the Agriculture Ministry, the Public Infrastructure Ministry and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) would also comprise the task force.

Harmon noted the recent flooding of the city, which he said was due to the coincidence of heavy rainfall and high tides, and he pointed out that “hard decisions” would have to be taken.

“There is going to have to be some radical change in the way we do things and the overall strategy would have to take into account those matters,” he said, while saying that city residents are suffering due to past lawlessness that allowed some persons to build in breach of city bylaws, thereby obstructing the drainage system.

A Dutch Risk Reduction Team had visited Guyana last year at the request of government and subsequently recommended that the authorities make a long-term project plan to gradually develop the hydraulic drainage model for Georgetown. “The frequency of today’s flood events in Georgetown is rightfully no longer accepted by the authorities. This implies that the drainage system needs to be upgraded and adequately managed,” its report said.

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure had asked the team to advise on the drainage situation, both for Georgetown and the low-lying agricultural coastlands. The report was submitted last January and among other things, identified short-, medium- and long-term measures that can be taken to better operate and manage the drainage system of Georgetown and the low-lying coastal areas.

It also urged the setting up of a simple spreadsheet type of network model for the entire drainage system of Georgetown to better understand the flow of water. “Use this understanding to support project proposals (for example increasing the pumping capacity of the most northern outfall sluice along the Demerara River),” the report said.

It also urged that a flood hazard map of Georgetown be made and used to explain to the people why it is important to build their properties flood-proof. Further, the report recommended that small-scale floating dredging capabilities be upgraded. It said that a good way to maintain the city’s drainage channel at locations where excavation from the landside is not possible, would be by floating mini dredgers, such as cutter suction dredgers. In the Netherlands as well as in many other countries, these mini dredgers are often used to dredge channels in highly urbanised areas or in situations where nearly fluid mud needs to be removed.

The report said that the requirements for small scale floating dredgers for Georgetown could be specified and the investment justified based on a cost/benefit calculation.

Meanwhile, Harmon said yesterday that at this week’s Cabinet meeting Agriculture Minister Noel Holder reported flooding in low lying areas as well as in Linden but that all the relevant agencies, particularly the NDIA, were working assiduously to drain the affected areas. He said Holder also reported that all the freshwater catchment areas and conservancies were experiencing levels well within the safety margin.

He added that the Civil Defence Commission is on full alert to monitor the adverse weather and potential flooding countrywide through its 24-hour National Emergency Monitoring System.





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