No longer under water – city’s flooding significantly reduced

― massive multi-agency effort since 2015

― huge savings to business and residents

― govt committed to providing the ‘good life’ 

DPI, Guyana, Sunday, March 17, 2019

Gone are the dark days when Georgetown residents lived in annual fear of their homes and businesses being under water. Through the massive multi-agency effort to clean and maintain the city’s infrastructure, dwellers in the capital city can now rest comfortably.

Businesses, large and small, have saved millions as they no longer face the issue of damage to goods and interruption to trade, as is common with floods. This drastic improvement has come directly from the election in 2015 of a coalition government committed to providing quality services and to rid the capital of the scourge of flooding.

In an exclusive interview with the Community Coordinator attached to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Neilson McKenzie cited that prior to 2015, “the [Georgetown] City Council would have been stifled of its machinery and equipment potential as it relates to effectively dealing with the drainage infrastructure in Georgetown… The government made a decision to allow the Ministry of Infrastructure to spearhead the clean-up – the restoration of Georgetown”.

Remedying the situation could not have been done in isolation. Massive piles of garbage had clogged the canals, trenches, culverts and drains preventing simple machinery to undertake decades-old of neglect. McKenzie drew the spotlight on the Albouystown and South Georgetown areas that were once known to be inundated by flood waters.

“It would have been years of neglect of the drainage system; the infrastructure was poorly handled, there was absolutely no maintenance. The culverts were blocked… kokers were blocked. The outfalls were not dredged and generally the litter situation was untenable,” McKenzie recalled.

Only weeks after assuming office in 2015; during the May/June rains, the government worked tirelessly to address the issues in those two areas. Initially, $75M was injected to clear the main drainage canals. These works began in the Cane View Avenue canal and progressed through to Sussex Street, Princess Street, South Road, North Road, Church Street, Irving Street, Lamaha Street and Cummings canals. These were first cleared to “create the capacity of those canals to hold more water because they were heavily silted”. Hence, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure funded a massive desilting project.

Central to the government’s policy on alleviating the flooding was a community-based approach. Through this framework, members within communities in Georgetown had direct involvement in the clearance of their drains. This allowed residents to benefit directly since funds were spent on their communities. The late veteran engineer, Walter Willis was intimately involved in the success of these desilting exercises.

McKenzie added that the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) also bore a large portion of the burden in addressing drainage in the capital after the 2015 elections. “Because we [the Ministry of Public Infrastructure] inherited a situation where we did not have the requisite equipment to do that kind of work, we utilised our sister agency, the NDIA to do most of the heavy pulling of silt. The M&CC and Ministry of Communities were also integral to the clearing of drains.”

While external contractors were utilised for major undertakings, about 80 start-up contractors were used for continuous drainage cleaning exercises between 2015 and 2016. In his assessment of the works done, McKenzie relayed that for the first time in decades, the concrete bottoms of drains were now visible to the surprise of many.

Though the cost of all this was considered, McKenzie said, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, under its revised mandate post-2015, determined it was vital to “remove the debris that came out of the canals, alleyways and drains into a safe place”.

On December 11, 2018, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure secured $38Billion in budgetary allocations as part of the coalition’s commitment towards improving the lives of all Guyanese. After all the hard work of the government to address the needs of the people, along with the assistance of the local government body following the holding of Local Government Elections, city residents can rest comfortably when they hear the rain on their rooftops.

Shaquille Bourne

Images: Jules Gibson


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