Govt activates National Emergency Operations Centre to address ECD sea defence breach

─ work continues to seal Mahaicony breach

─ Opposition and Civil Society to be briefed

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The government has activated the twenty-four-hour National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) due to a breach of the sea defence, on the East Coast of Demerara, which resulted in flooding.

This is the second time, since its formation in 2015, that the centre has been operationalised.

The situation has affected approximately 400 households across 65 coastal communities.

Responding to the situation on Tuesday, stakeholders from the various agencies appraised the media of the damage caused by floodwaters. The agencies also revealed the steps that are being taken to prevent a similar incident, as the next spring tide is expected on Saturday, October 26.

The issue was addressed at the level of the government, and an emergency press briefing was convened, with relevant stakeholders, to address the media, on Tuesday, at the Civil Defence Commission’s (CDC) headquarters.

Addressing the media and agencies present at the press conference, Minister of Public Infrastructure, Hon. David Patterson indicated that keen attention is being paid to a particular stretch of sea defence in the Dantzig area, on the East Coast of Demerara.

He explained that his ministry has been undertaking corrective works since July of this year.

“Since early on in the year, due to weather patterns, the land access to this area was compromised; therefore, we were carrying out interventions from March of 2019,” Minister Patterson explained.

At Tuesday’s briefing, the media operatives initially heard from the Ministry of the Presidency’s Director-General, Joseph Harmon.

He noted that a considerable amount of money has already been spent on the area, and an application will be made to secure additional monies via the Contingency Fund to continue the intervention.

The monies, he noted, will only be requested once all of the ministries and agencies complete assessments, as it will cover interventions at all levels. These will not only to infrastructure and emergency works but will also bring much-needed relief to the citizens who are affected, but also health, among others.

DG Harmon emphasised that the assessments of all areas are necessary before a figure can be determined at this stage.

“We want to be very clear and be very sure that what we are asking for has to do with this emergency… So, at the level of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, at the level of the Ministry of Social Protection, at the Communities, at the level of Public Security, Public Health and the Civil Defence Commission, there are people who are working now to ascertain what is necessary to approach the Ministry of Finance.”

Taking into consideration the current situation of the spring tide, the fact that climate change is occurring and will continue in this century and beyond, and the fact that majority of the affected areas are low-lying, Minister Patterson spoke of what is needed to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

“We have to build climate-resilient infrastructure. Obviously, for the future, we need to anticipate how much higher the wave action will be in say another 20 or 30 years, to build our infrastructure to be able to withstand that. The short-term issue is to close the breach. The long-term issue is to construct a full rip-rap structure along that entire stretch. Of course, that is an expensive undertaking.”

It was reported that the Opposition and members of civil society will be briefed on the efforts, flood impacts and updated on the situation as it unfolds.

Currently, the CDC and ministerial teams are spearheading relief efforts in the affected areas. Works on a sea defence breach at Dantzig Mahaicony, which was exacerbated by the spring tides, continue.

Residents in low lying and riverain areas are advised to take the necessary precautions during the next spring tide on Saturday, October 26. They are being cautioned to heed any advice provided by the CDC in preparations of the expected tide.

The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) is composed of a high-level committee comprising state agencies’ representatives. These include the Ministry of the Presidency, Public Infrastructure Ministry, Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA), National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), Hydro-Met Office, Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI), Ministry of Social Protection, Ministry of Communities, Ministry of Public Health and the Civil Defence Commission (CDC).


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