Gov’t rolls out ambitious plan to redesign drainage systems

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The government on Tuesday rolled out an ambitious plan to redesign the country’s drainage systems to battle flooding.

The country’s drainage systems are known to buckle when there is excessive rainfall and high tides, causing flooding that has devastated the economy; this was the case last year and in 2005.

The coastal regions, where most people live and where most economic activities take place, suffer the worst consequences, and Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo warned that the country needs to brace for further severe weather patterns that could spell disaster.

“It has been a challenge in past but it will get worse in the future,” Jagdeo warned.

Jagdeo led a meeting with key stakeholders at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre to discuss the government’s ideas and solicit further views on how best the drainage systems could be changed.

The discussion focused on flood protection measures in Regions Two, Three, Five and Six. It was attended by government officials, hundreds of residents, regional officials and engineers.

A section of the gathering at the consultation

Jagdeo said the consultation provided an opportunity for the government to test the sensibility of proposed ideas on a physical redesign of drainage and irrigation systems.

It will be followed by feasibility studies to address other economic and social impacts. The government will subsequently implement plans to tackle the peculiar drainage issues in each region and secure funding to support its plans.

According to Jagdeo, it was important to get citizens on board early to allow for support for the process through feedback from the grassroots level.

Jagdeo said Guyana’s water situation was both a blessing and a challenge because of its abundance but said the government was keen on putting infrastructure in place to better address this with the predictions for climate change in the future.

Jagdeo said the new system will address the large accumulation of water during short raining periods and the consequential loss of crops and livestock during flooding.

According to the Vice President, efforts have been taken in the past to address climate change and floods, such as the construction of the Hope Canal and the implementation of the Low Carbon Development Strategy. But he argued that the time has come to further change and update drainage systems along the coast.

Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and other officials during the consultations

Chairman of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) Lionel Wordsworth said there is currently a proposal from stakeholders in Region Two, where the mighty Pomeroon River runs through to install gates to several canals to connect to the river.

This proposal was recently submitted to the government but there were several other better-studied proposals from Regions Three, Five and Six.

In Region Three where the Canals Polder is located, there is a proposal to upgrade and resize the channel between Canal No.1  and  Canal No.2, making a third channel that will now run from the conservancy with a discharge directly into the Demerara River.

In Region Five, Wordsworth said there at three major outlets, one at the Mahaica River, One at Cottage and another at the Mahaicony River.

The proposal is to rehabilitate the Mahaica creek embankment and upgrade existing channels to take water directly into the Atlantic Ocean. The proposal is for the creation of new outlets with increased pump and drainage capacity with specific emphasis on the Baiboo canal.

Wordsworth said the drainage capacity between Mahaicony and Abary remains inadequate and more drainage will be added while a flood embankment could also be constructed.

A section of the gathering at the consultation

Meanwhile, for Region Six, emphasis will be placed on the Canje Creek with plans to construct a flood embankment on the west of the creek, traversing from #66 creek to Canje, then to the #52 main drain at Mibicuri and finally onto Brotherson irrigation canal.

During feedback from those present, there was a call for the government to continue to look at short-term relief efforts while it seeks to address the major issues with the drainage systems.

In Region Two, there was an abundance of requests for the government to move swiftly to dredge and desilt the Pomeroon River.

The government has already announced plans to do just that along with dredging the mouths of several other main rivers in Guyana.

Jagdeo had to also assure residents that government will continue to address secondary drainage channels by keeping them clean and accessible.

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