Grass­roots Talk

Weekend Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By Jag­nar­ine Somwar

As

we en­ter the New Year this week-end, this col­umn and the Grass­root­ers would like to take this op­por­tu­nity in wish­ing our read­ers, com­rades and friends and fam­i­lies, along with all Guyana, a Pros­per­ous, Pro­gres­sive and Suc­cess­ful 2017.

The fes­tive sea­son reached us at a dif­fi­cult time, with the Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment im­pos­ing al­most 200 ad­di­tional taxes on the na­tion, in­clud­ing VAT on elec­tric­ity and wa­ter, two of the most ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties of a com­fort­able life.

As prepa­ra­tion was at its peak to en­joy and cel­e­brate a true Guyanese Christ­mas, with the usual pep­per­pot, gar­lic pork and black cake with gin­ger­beer, the rains came on Christ­mas Eve, and within a few hours, the en­tire City of Ge­orge­town and the Coast­land was un­der wa­ter.

The Guyanese na­tion are a peo­ple of de­ter­mi­na­tion, re­silience and en­durance who would pre­vail un­der ex­treme dif­fi­cult con­di­tions and cir­cum­stances but when busi­nesses, farms and other cul­ti­va­tion lands, live­stock and house­holds suf­fer im­mense dam­ages be­cause of a neg­li­gent Gov­ern­ment who can­not man­age ba­sic drainage and ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems in a land that is be­low sea level, then much is left to be de­sired.

Hun­dreds of mil­lions of tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars were used in a hap­haz­ard man­ner to clean and beau­tify the Gar­den City for the 50th In­de­pen­dence cel­e­bra­tion, yet within a few hours of rain, the en­tire City was sub­merged with knee high wa­ter that was mixed with the sewer waste and filth from the clogged gut­ters.

What would have hap­pened if the PPP Gov­ern­ment hadn’t pro­vided pumps, ex­ca­va­tors, trac­tors and trail­ers and other ma­chin­ery to as­sist in drainage and ir­ri­ga­tion and garbage col­lec­tion and dis­posal?

This Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment is in­ca­pable of han­dling and man­ag­ing the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties and sys­tems that were cre­ated by the for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion, es­pe­cially dur­ing dis­as­ters like these.

Op­po­si­tion Leader, Dr. Bhar­rat Jagdeo and the PPP Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Cle­ment Ro­hee, were the first to wade the flooded wa­ters to visit ar­eas in Ge­orge­town in a bid to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion and spoke to res­i­dents and busi­ness per­sons about the dam­ages/losses they suf­fered.

There has also been flood­ing in res­i­den­tial and agri­cul­tural ar­eas of Re­gions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, with many homes and busi­nesses se­verely af­fected in South Ge­orge­town, Cum­mings­burg, Al­bert­town, Bel Air, New­town Kitty, Re­gent Street, Main Street and Turkeyen.

Coastal vil­lages ar­eas such as Lima, sec­tions of Hener­itta and Hamp­ton Court, Capoey, Land of Plenty in Re­gion 2; Canals Polder and Goed For­tuin in Re­gion 3; and res­i­den­tial and agri­cul­tural ar­eas of Anns Grove/Two Friends, Cane Grove, Good Hope, Mon Re­pos, Lusig­nan, Foulis within Re­gion 4 were also af­fected with flood wa­ters.

In Re­gion 5, sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties were se­verely af­fected and some farm­ers in the Re­gion have re­ported dam­age to cash crops and live­stock.

The af­fected ar­eas in­clude: Blair­mont; Rosig­nal NDC area; Bel Air & Wood­lands Farm NDC ar­eas; Num­ber7 Back Street; Bath Wood­ley Park NDC area; Bush Lot NDC area; Num­ber 28 and Num­ber 29 Vil­lages; Hopetown, Seafield/ Tem­pie NDC area; and Profit/ Ris­ing Sun NDC area . In Re­gion 6, New Am­s­ter­dam Town; Num­ber 52 to 74 res­i­den­tial vil­lages; Rose Hall ( res­i­den­tial area); and sev­eral vil­lages along Cen­tral Coren­tyne were af­fected.

On the Coastal Plain, the PPP ap­pointed Re­gional Chair­man were out in the fields mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion and mo­bi­liz­ing ma­chin­ery and labour to carry out emer­gency works.

Dr. Jagdeo has called on the Gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment ev­ery mea­sure nec­es­sary, to bring im­me­di­ate re­lief to those af­fected, by en­sur­ing that steps are taken to min­i­mize dam­ages and losses to prop­erty, live­stock and agri­cul­tural crops. He had also urged the Gov­ern­ment to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to the ris­ing wa­ter levels in the East De­mer­ara Wa­ter Con­ser­vancy (EDWC), which was re­ported to be above 57 GD level, as well as the Bo­erasirie Con­ser­vancy.

He has said that the Ma­haica and Ma­haicony Creeks, Pomeroon River and other in­land ar­eas, should also re­ceive at­ten­tion, since back­wa­ter flows can re­sult in down­stream flood­ing, which is the pre­dom­i­nant trend in riverain ar­eas.

Dr. Jagdeo noted that the de­fec­tive sluices and silted out­fall chan­nels in drainage pold­ers such as Capoey, Cozier, Three Friends, Let­ter Kenny and Bor­lam must be ur­gently ad­dressed and op­er­a­tional­ized, as well as those on the East Coast of De­mer­ara, Ge­orge­town and other ar­eas, as nec­es­sary.

Only after the Party, through its Chair­man, had started to put ar­range­ments in place to address the flood­ing sit­u­a­tion, were a cou­ple of Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ters and the Mayor of Ge­orge­town seen walk­ing the ground and mak­ing prom­ises to address the prob­lems.

Com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties were dealt a hard blow, for the peo­ple that would nor­mally crowd the shop­ping cen­tres and mu­nic­i­pal mar­ket places were de­tained ei­ther be­cause of the depth of wa­ter through which they would have had to wade, pos­ing great risk to their health; or the lim­ited avail­abil­ity of trans­porta­tion, since many mo­torists parked their ve­hi­cles for fear of get­ting wa­ter into their en­gines.

So deep was the in­un­da­tion on road­ways that a few mo­tor cars broke down and were left at the road­side, their en­gines badly af­fected by the wa­ter.

Last Fri­day’s flash floods are a stark re­minder to cit­i­zens about the ef­fects of cli­mate change; the need for of­fi­cials to al­ways main­tain our drainage struc­tures and also to the gov­ern­ment that de­spite its ear­lier pro­nounce­ments about the ef­fec­tive­ness of the city clean-up ex­er­cise, we are not yet out of the woods.

There is a fourth el­e­ment in all of this, the un­re­li­a­bil­ity of the coun­try’s hy­dro me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal ser­vice. Enough has been said over the years about the city’s drainage sys­tem and its weak­nesses, but un­less we fix the weather fore­cast de­part­ment, the calamity of the floods will con­tinue to hap­pen.

Mr. Nag­amootoo stated that the “Hy­droMet Ser­vice’s fore­cast of “scat­tered show­ers” Thurs­day evening and “oc­ca­sional show­ers” early Fri­day morn­ing were mis­lead­ing and left cit­i­zens with­out ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion, al­low­ing them to take the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions and al­low­ing agen­cies to act pre-emp­tively.”

He in­sisted that this sit­u­a­tion of the Hy­droMet Of­fice not fore­warn­ing cit­i­zens of flood­ing has ex­isted for sev­eral years and most re­cently, there were episodes in De­cem­ber 2014 and June 2015.

He cau­tioned: “Floods cause eco­nomic dis­lo­ca­tion, dam­age and losses and the Hy­droMet Of­fice can­not af­ford to be ca­sual about these mat­ters.”

It is com­mon knowl­edge that when flood wa­ters come, busi­ness own­ers are forced to shut down their op­er­a­tions and en­gage their staff and ad­di­tional hired help in cleanup ac­tiv­i­ties. Crit­i­cal busi­ness hours are lost, prof­its are di­min­ished.

These have knock-on ef­fects on the lo­cal econ­omy, which for the most part is not an­a­lysed, to un­der­stand the real im­pact of any flood. Cu­mu­la­tively how­ever, one could say tens of mil­lions of dol­lars would have to be ex­pended on clean­ing de­ter­gents and agents, buck­ets, mops, and sponges; labour alone is a mod­est es­ti­mate.

This does not in­clude the man hours and prof­its lost, the busi­ness dis­rupted, the ad­di­tional elec­tric­ity and wa­ter used in the clean-up ex­er­cises among other eco­nomic con­sid­er­a­tions. Add to that the clo­sure of schools, the bank­ing sec­tor dis­rupted, city trans­porta­tion in grid­lock, work at the wharves grind­ing to a halt, mar­ket op­er­a­tions ham­pered, vir­tu­ally ev­ery as­pect of life suf­fered.

Then there are the health ef­fects. Many per­sons, par­tic­u­larly chil­dren, may suf­fer from di­ar­rhea and sim­i­lar com­mu­ni­ca­ble and wa­ter-borne dis­eases caused by them be­ing ex­posed to the un­san­i­tary flood wa­ters. Apart from these per­sons not be­ing able to at­tend school and work dur­ing their pe­riod of ill­ness, they re­quired med­i­ca­tion and treat­ment, caus­ing a strain on the health sec­tor.

Prime Min­is­ter Nag­amootoo had ac­knowl­edged the suf­fer­ing of Guyanese through their losses and dis­com­fort any­time it floods in the City and the Coast­lands, how­ever he is deemed on blam­ing the Hy­dro me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal of­fice for in­con­clu­sive and in­ac­cu­rate weather re­ports, but should note that re­gard­less of the re­ports the Gov­ern­ment must al­ways have sys­tems in place to deal with the even­tu­al­ity of flood­ing and means to avert the sit­u­a­tion.

What about com­pen­sa­tion for those that suf­fered dam­ages and losses?

It is hoped that the weather pat­tern will changed for the New Year so all could start prepara­tory ar­range­ments for the cus­tom­ary Old Years Night Cook-up. Whilst some would be at­tend­ing mass oth­ers would auger in the New Year with Par­ties.

Although the Grass­root­ers will wel­come 2017 with pomp and all the tra­di­tional means of joy and splen­dour, they would be do­ing it cau­tiously, as 2017 would be a dif­fi­cult year for all Guyana.

Our res­o­lu­tion for 2017 would be to re­main stead­fast and con­tinue our strug­gle to limit the Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment to, not more than one term in Of­fice, so we could con­tinue the de­vel­op­ment of a pro­gres­sive and pros­per­ous Guyana.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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