Agri. Minister establishes taskforce to monitor flood prone areas in light of current weather conditions

– systems being put in place to improve drainage in the long term
– a number of additional pumps to be installed in 2021

With the Hydromet Department of the Ministry of Agriculture recently issuing an advisory alerting fishermen and other persons residing on the Coast of instances of high waves coupled with above normal tides, in addition to the increase in rainfall, Agriculture Minister, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha recently established a taskforce to closely monitor developments in these areas.

The taskforce, which comprises a number of technical officials from Regions Two, Three, Four, Five and Six, is mandated to report instances of flooding, heavy rainfall and breaches in sea defences and drainage and irrigation structures along the Coast and other low-lying areas.

Minister Mustapha said given the seriousness of the advisory and Guyana’s geographical position, it was important to have a team in place.

“We are currently experiencing extreme rainfall as part of our November – January rainy period. The Hydromet Department also forecasted high waves and above normal tides. With all this information at hand, it was critical for me to establish this taskforce so that information about what is happening on the ground can be filtered across the sector in a timely manner. I’ve also instructed our regional engineers and other officers to provide daily reports about rainfall in their respective areas and how it is affecting persons and their farming activities,” Minister Mustapha said.

The subject Minister further disclosed that the NDIA has been working with Regional Officials to conduct some works to ensure drainage channels in several farming communities are cleared. This, the Minister said, would improve the drainage capacity in these areas should there be any occurrence of flooding. 

Additionally, a team from the Ministry is currently working with cash crop and livestock farmers who experienced losses recently as a result of flooding due to heavy rainfall. During a visit to flood affected areas in Black Bush Polder, Minister Mustapha reaffirmed Government’s commitment to assisting farmers who were affected and instructed officers from GLDA and NAREI to conduct assessments in these areas so that some form of assistance can be given to the farmers.

“We cannot give you cash. What we can do is offer assistance in the form of seeds, fertilisers and other planting materials. The officers are here and they will be collecting and verifying your information so that we can start distributing the materials we have to the farmers,” Minister Mustapha said. 

Improving the Country’s long term drainage capability 

In an effort to improve the country’s drainage capacity in the long term, Minister Mustapha said that his Ministry is working to develop a drainage system that can withstand the impacts of climate change, which has resulted in an increase in rainfall in a short period of time.

“As it is now, there are a number of areas that are under water because of the system we currently have. Some areas that do not have gravity flow, we have to use pumps and the pumps take a little longer than the sluice to pull the water. I am working to put a system in place where we can have both pumps and sluices operational. When the tides are low, we’ll use the sluice and when the tide is high, we’ll use the pumps so that we can have a 24-hour system of draining the land. We know that Guyana is below sea level and that our drainage system is only capable of draining 1 ½ to 2 inches of water in a 24-hour period. So, when we record five and six and ten inches of accumulated water because of heavy rains, imagine how long it would take to drain those systems. This is why it is imperative for us to have our drainage system work on a 24-hour basis,” Minister Mustapha said.

The subject Minister also said this year, the Ministry plans to install a number of additional high capacity pumps to its fleet of drainage pumps.

“We’re working to develop an overall structure that will improve our current drainage system. This year, we plan to install a number of new pumps across the country since we cannot rely solely on gravity drainage. With climate change having such a great impact on the weather patterns, we have to prepare our system and have it functioning at its fullest capacity in the long term, especially since rainfall has become a lot more unpredictable,” Minister Mustapha said.

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