Multi-stakeholder drainage authority to take charge of city flooding

In the near future, maintenance of irrigation canals and outfalls within the capital will be the responsibility of the Georgetown Drainage Authority, a new entity comprising representatives of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Georgetown City Council, National Drainage and Irrigation Authority and the Ministry of Communities.

Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan told Stabroek News yesterday that the entity, once formed, would give effect to a decision of Cabinet, which has noted inadequacies in the current drainage system and has decided that this capacity needs to be upgraded.

Bulkan noted that while the decision to create the entity was “at variance to both the existing statutory responsibility and the expressed desire of the council to retain sole responsibility,” Cabinet was prepared “to modify the existing legislation if necessary.”

At present, Section 268 of the Municipal and District Council Act tasks the city with the responsibility to make and maintain in good order the drainage works necessary for effectual draining and irrigating the city as well as to cause all drainage works in the council area to be kept so as not to be injurious to health and to be properly cleansed and drained.

While City Hall has recently expended in excess of $300 million in the cleaning and maintaining drains in sections of the city, flooding continues as the volume and intensity of rainfall routinely exceed the current capacity of the systems. At present Georgetown’s drainage system is supposed to be able to successfully drain 1.5 inches of accumulated rainfall in a 24-hour period; government hopes to see this capacity greatly increased by 2018.

This reality, according to Bulkan, means that the project to improve city drainage needs to be technically driven.

“At present we are entertaining recommendations from the technical team which have to be documented and costed to inform budgetary allocations and financial support,” he explained, adding that the project was being developed with short and medium-term timeline goals.

In the short term, a technical team will develop plans that will work between 2017 and 2018 to increase capacity by among other things reclaiming former catchment areas (reservoirs), removing encumbrances alongside waterways, points of exit and revetments. The team will also be examining various reports and studies compiled on the city’s drainage system including the 1994 Georgetown drainage master plan.

The technical team includes Chief Sea and River Defence Officer Kevin Samad, Head of the National Task Force Secretariat Lennox Lee, Community Coordinator Neilson McKenzie and Senior Engineer Maitland Stewart from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure; CEO Frederick Flatts and Senior Engineer Dave Hinds of National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, City Engineer Colvern Venture and Head of Sanitation Department Gordon Gilkes and Special Project Officer Bramanand Singh from the Ministry of Communities.

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