Disaster Risk Management workshop moves to Regions 3 and 6

– EU funds consultations on strengthening existing Sea and River Defence Acts and drafting a new Disaster Risk Management Bill

– Stakeholders call for greater involvement of all agencies

– Police should be allowed to charge persons guilty of land encroachment

DPI, Guyana, Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) is currently engaging stakeholders from all regions across Guyana with the specific objective of revising the existing Sea and River Defence Acts and drafting a new Disaster Risk Management Bill. These consultations are being funded by the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) and Services for the Implementation of External Aid 2018 (SIEA) Framework.

Meetings were held in Region Six, East Berbice Corentyne on October 18, and was attended by the Regional Chairman David Armagon and the Deputy Regional Executive Officer Claude Henry and several stakeholders.

Essequibo Islands/ West Demerara, Region Three held their meeting on October 19, in the Regional Administration Boardroom where the consultants interacted directly with various Region Three stakeholders.

The meetings sought to highlight potential disasters, stakeholders’ roles in planning and prevention, and defining levels or ownership and responsibilities of various sectors. Stakeholders were informed that the consultations will deal primarily with focus groups and regional consultations within each region to gain the widest possible perspective on the bills in order to present a balanced, effective and inclusive outcome.

The consultants are working to complete the technical draft of the Bill to be presented to the Government by November 30, 2018.

At both meetings, the Legislative Drafting Expert, Chris Hedley explained that consultations are a key component in developing the legislation because it provides a different perspective at both the regional and local levels, which would aid in providing a more integrated perspective in the development of the Bill.

Sea and River legislation was passed as early as 1883 with supporting legislation passed in 1953 and subsidiary legislation.

In his presentations, Hedley said the overarching objective of the project is to promote climate change adaptation and resilience in Guyana; through a sustainable Integrated Coastal Zone Management approach that will protect vulnerable communities and supports gender equality. He further said that the government has been active over recent years in developing various policies, strategies and mechanisms for Disaster Risk Management (DRM).

“…. for example, a national DRM Policy, a National Integrated DRM Plan and implemented Strategy, Multi-Hazard Preparedness and Response Plans, an Early Warning System Framework and a National DRM Platform under the auspices of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), which was established to coordinate the various institutions involved in DRM. In addition, a broad number of legislative provisions, strategies, plans, etc. in other sectors have incorporated Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) measures and DRR/ adaptation measures are increasingly incorporated into public investment and planning decisions,” Hedley stated.

Meanwhile, Disaster Risk Management Expert, Dr. Fernando Aragon said that there is an existing draft Disaster Risk Management Bill but from preliminary observations, there are areas which must be addressed when drafting the new Bill. He pointed particularly to areas such institutional overlapping, preventative actions, the lack of efficient early warning systems and the important role that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can play in strengthening information management and issues related to evacuation and relocation actions.

“Some of the shortcomings that currently exist within the current draft bill are that key terms are not well defined so the conceptual basis is not robust and therefore there is no clear policy framework for institutions, organisations and actors’ responsibilities and actions. , objectives and purposes of the bill are vague and do not reflect Guyana’s context and needs. Even though the bill’s title refers to DRM, the focus is put on reactive responses and emergency actions. The DRM draft bill does not promote policy articulation nor institutional integration and communication and there is no clear guidance on how the different policy sectors may contribute to disaster risk reduction,” Dr. Aragon explained.

Stakeholders at both fora offered their suggestions and opinions on how to strengthen the Disaster Risk Management Bill and Sea and River Defence Acts.

President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Region Three, Halim Khan opined that in order to ensure the non-encroachment on reserve lands which are there for the purpose of facilitating equipment for the maintenance of sea and river defence, the Guyana Police Force must be allowed to charge persons that encroach.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority representative. Other stakeholders called for greater collaboration with the other government agencies such as the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission.

The next consultation is scheduled to be held in Bartica in Region Seven, on October 22.

Story and Images: Tanuja Raikha and Ganesh Mahipaul