With big focus on drainage, PM says Guyana preparing for any floods

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Nationwide flooding gripped Guyanese during last year’s May/ June rainy season but Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips says that the local authorities are better prepared for the upcoming rainy season because of the increased focus on improving drainage.

Because of the devastating impact of the floods last year, the Prime Minister explained that large sums were allocated in the 2022 National Budget for drainage and irrigation works.

According to Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, during the presentation of this year’s National Budget, $13 billion was allocated to upgrade drainage and irrigation systems countrywide.

Only on Tuesday, a massive $569.3 million contract was awarded to Gaico Construction and General Services Incorporated to dredge the mouth of the Pomeroon River, since farmers had been grappling with flooding there.

Aerial view of flooding in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) (Photo: Office of the President/May 29, 2021)

Aside from the sums allocated for work this year, though, the Prime Minister emphasised that the government began revamping the drainage system last year.

“… on the flood mitigation side, from then to now through the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), we’ve done extensive work in terms of digging drains and all the outfalls and so to better be able to capture run-offs from any future floods,” the Prime Minister told the News Room on Monday.

In addition to the flood mitigation efforts, the Prime Minister also noted that Guyana has been focused on improving its flood response. The Civil Defence Commission (CDC), he said, has been leading these efforts in collaboration with stakeholders in all regions.

Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips (second from left), Regional Chairman of Region Nine, Brian Allicock (right) and other officials assessing the flooding situation in Region Nine over the weekend (Photo: DPI/ May 23, 2021)

And Prime Minister Phillips highlighted, “Basically, we are ready to work in terms of any relief operation that is necessary should we have any flood-related disasters again.”

DISASTER RISK MANAGEMENT BILL

To formalise and expand the role of local authorities, like the CDC, in engaging in disaster mitigation and response activities, a Disaster Risk Management bill has been in the works since 2012.

Last April, CDC’s Director-General Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig told the News Room that minor adjustments and input from the Prime Minister were needed before the bill could be finalised. In June, the Prime Minister said that the bill needed review from other Ministers of Government and would be taken to the National Assembly shortly.

“I think the whole intention of the bills and all the plans are to make us manage situations of disasters or complex emergencies better the next time around,” he said last year.

This week, the Prime Minister said that a review of the bill was still ongoing and no timeline has been placed on tabling the Bill in the National Assembly.

He, however, emphasised that while this Bill is being reviewed, efforts are being made to prepare for any form of disaster and subsequent relief efforts.

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