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!!!