Dutch team recommends ways of tackling floods in Guyana

Dutch team recommends ways of tackling floods

  • Friday, 27 November 2015 – Demerara Waves
Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson (at left) with members of the Dutch Risk Reduction team.

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson (at left) with members of the Dutch Risk Reduction team.

A Dutch Risk Reduction (DDR) team has recommended that Guyana continue to dredge its drainage system and ensure the water flows off the land properly and implement a high-tech system to improve water management.

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure says that is one of seven key recommendations made by the team as Guyana continues to explore long-lasting solutions to flooding especially after periods of intense rainfall even during short duration.  

After days of analysing Guyana’s drainage system, the Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) Team last evening, November 26, 2015, presented its recommendations on the way forward for Guyana. Team Leader, Rob Steijn presented the team’s preliminary recommendations to a Guyanese team of experts who were accompanied by Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson and Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Noel Holder.

The seven recommendations were to upgrade modelling capability; increase flood resilience of people and businesses; upgrade dredging capabilities and improve flow efficiency; develop long-term plans; develop and test a pilot project; develop and apply a life cycle approach for the drainage assets; and data management through digitisation.

During remarks following a presentation by the DRR Team, Minister Patterson said that the observations made were “very informative”. He also said that he was impressed that, in just a few days, the team had managed to make spot on assessments of Guyana’s situation. Minister Patterson also thanked the team for its frankness.

“We don’t see it as a critique; it’s all a learning process,” he said.

Additionally, Minister Patterson indicated his support of some of the recommendations and expressed his anticipation for the final report. He also thanked the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ernst Noorman, and the DRR Team for their collaboration and assistance.

The three-member DRR Team arrived in Guyana on Sunday evening and, since Monday, has been conducting analyses throughout the country. The team included Social Scientist, Judith Klostermann; and Civil Engineer, Fokke Westebring. Their trip involved a flyover of Guyana as well as a dozen interviews with local officials.

During the wrap-up session, Steijn noted that The Netherlands has significant experience in drainage since it, like Guyana, is low-lying. The majority of The Netherlands is below sea level.

According to Steijn, the team received much support during its time here in Guyana.

“Everything was arranged extremely well; it could not have been better. All persons we met were very knowledgeable and dedicated,” he emphasised.

During the presentation, Steijn delivered six key messages, including the need for an upgrade of Guyana’s drainage on both a technical and managerial level.

“If you don’t manage it properly, the system will fail and if your water system fails, your country will fail,” Steijn stressed.

He further emphasised that Guyana’s water system needed to be crucially addressed while he opined that the Government’s predictability to water issues must be improved. Additionally, he noted that short-term improvements, such as small-scale dredging, are possible.

“The main message is that we need a holistic approach,” he said.

He added that the issue must be attacked on all levels, from the planning stage right up to the enforcement of legislation. He said too that an integrated approach involving all stakeholders was necessary.

“A participatory approach leads to much more progress and faster implementation in the end,” he added.

However, Steijn’s presentation was not all doom and gloom. Rather, he noted that the observations were “not all bad”. He said, “There were good things and other things that need some improvement.”

Meanwhile, Steijn indicated that the analyses do not end upon the team’s exit from Guyana. He stressed that four days were not enough. Thus, he said that the team will return to the Netherlands and further analyse the data presented before completing its report. Last night’s discussions would also aid in the recommendations, Steijn revealed.

Minister Patterson stressed the importance of the report being more than just another report. He indicated that, since taking office, he would have realised that studies would have been previously done but their findings never implemented, a reality that needed to change.

Steijn also shared that the report will be completed before the end of the year. He projected that it would be finalised and formally handed over to the Guyana Government by mid-December.

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  • demerwater  On 12/01/2015 at 9:35 am

    Is that it?
    This question popped, unbidden, into my mind after I reading the above ‘report’.
    The power that once owned the colony; their language that gave us the words koker, stelling and polder; and names like Wakenaam, Uitvlugt, (New) Amsterdam and (Fort) Nassau; the pioneering planters that left us the unique “flood fallow” and excavated, with ‘Demerara teaspoons’ (shovels) and slave labor, the ingenious drainage and irrigation layout that made agriculture possible; the nation that spawned the legend of the “Little Dutch Boy & the Dyke”.
    In December 2015, their DDR team came up with recommendations that have been expressed right here on this forum!
    There had better be some up to date recommendations, worth reading, in their final report.

  • demerwater  On 01/24/2017 at 4:23 am

    “Steijn also shared that the report will be completed before the end of the year. He projected that it would be finalised and formally handed over to the Guyana Government by mid-December.”
    I had reason to revisit this site this morning; and I wonder if the final report has been submitted; and if we, the enquiring public might be allowed to read it.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/24/2017 at 10:46 am

    Dutch Risk Reduction Team – Mission Report 2016


  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/24/2017 at 11:06 am

    In July 2015, extreme rainfall caused severe disruption of daily life in Georgetown as well as in several agricultural coastal areas. According to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, the losses due to this event in the agricultural sector alone were more than 100 M US$.

    In addition to the direct damage city flooding also causes serious health threats due to potential spread of water-borne diseases. Flooding is not an unusual situation for the low-lying areas of Guyana with typical topographic heights around Mean Sea Level (MSL). Inundations occurred many times in the past, with sometimes devastating effects, such as in 1934 and 2005.

    The Government of Guyana has requested the Government of the Netherlands to advise on their drainage situation, both for Georgetown and the low-lying agricultural coastlands. The official request from the Guyanese Ministry of Public Infrastructure was sent to the Netherlands Embassy in Suriname on 03-08-2015.

    In this letter, it was also requested to comment on the coastal defence strategy, but it was decided during the preparatory telecons and the kick-off meeting to focus on the drainage problems. It was decided by the Dutch Government to follow-up the request by means of a scoping DRR – Team mission addressing the flood risk management in the northern coastline of Guyana, and Georgetown in particular.

    Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) Teams, in general, aim to reduce the risk of water related disasters. Many countries around the world face severe water threats. Often, these countries are in urgent need of expert advice on how to prevent a disaster or how to recover from a calamity.

    The DRR – Team visited Guyana in the period 22 – 26 November 2015. The various components of the Georgetown drainage system were visited, a fly-over across the entire coastline was made and interviews were held with leading representatives from governing agencies, potential funding agencies (EC) and relevant stakeholders.

    The objective of the mission was to specify what can be done to better operate and manage the drainage system of Georgetown and the low-lying coastal areas.
    Annex A gives the names of the DRR – Team members, as well as those of the attendants of the inception meeting (23 November, Georgetown). Some highlights of the wrap-up meeting (26 November, Georgetown) are given in Annex B.

    Considering the economic situation of Guyana and the relatively mild character of the flooding events under normal conditions, it is not recommended to consider new large scale, expensive infrastructure. Instead, it is advised to take a large number of small steps over a period of several years that will increase the knowledge and the collective ownership of the drainage infrastructure among local experts, Guyanese governments, and the people of Guyana. By increasing trust, cooperation and local expertise Guyana can become a South-American example of effective and efficient water management

    This report provides concrete suggestions to make the Guyana approach towards water management in general and drainage in particular more integrated and more proactive. The suggestions cover a wide palette of topics and include:

    1 Upgrade modelling capability
    • Make a long-term project plan to gradually develop the hydraulic drainage model for Georgetown, with the design requirements mentioned in Section 3.2.

    • Set up a simple spreadsheet type of network model for the entire drainage system of Georgetown and use it to better understand the flow of water. Use this understanding to support project proposals (for example increasing the pumping capacity of the most northern outfall sluice along the Demerara River).

    • Start selecting two or three engineers with a passion for computers and modelling and train them on the subject of hydraulic modelling.

    2 Improve flood resiliency of people
    • Develop a communication plan with the aim to increase the understanding of the people about what it means to live with water (in terms of potentials and challenges) and execute this plan. It has to be clear that the flood risk will never be reduced to zero. Consider to use a shared symbol, for example the water lily.

    • Make a flood hazard map of Georgetown and use it to explain to the people why it is important to build their properties (houses and businesses) flood-proof.

    • Prepare a simple explanation (for example, a Youtube video) on how the drainage system works, why water needs space, and why it is important to keep the drainage system free from constructions and solid waste.

    3 Upgrade small-scale floating dredging capabilities
    • Specify the requirements for small scale floating dredgers for the city of Georgetown and justify the investment based on a cost/benefit calculation. Decide on whether it should be a public or a private entity to run the “City Dredging Operations”.

    • Purchase dedicated equipment and start operations. Evaluate the performance on a regular basis.

    Develop and apply rational risk approach
    • Prepare a first set of flood hazard maps for a region yet to be chosen (for example one isolated catchment area in Georgetown). Next steps are to prepare flood hazard maps for other areas as well, including rural areas.

    • Set up the framework for analysis for the sea defence risk assessment using the Rational Risk Approach briefly described in Section 3.5. The items mentioned under ‘national debate’ in Section 4.1 should be part of this activity.

    5 Pilot “Living with Water”
    • Develop a pilot “Living with Water” in which all elements of an integrated long-term and holistic “Drainage System Management” are specified and made applicable to Guyanese situations. One pilot location could be chosen in consultation with GuySuCo (low-lying coastal area with planned or unplanned urban development on formerly rural lands). Involve different governmental agencies to develop structural ways of cooperation;

    • Idem, but now for an existing highly urbanized catchment area in Georgetown.

    6 Asset Management
    • Consider the suggestions given in the Table in Section 3.7 on Asset Management.

    7 Data Management
    • Start collecting all available data on the drainage system (Georgetown and elsewhere), digitise, and apply gap analysis to see what misses. Start collecting and digitising these missing data. This includes data on locations of canals, sluices and pumps, their dimensions, capacities, flow velocities, bed composition, embankment composition, etc).

    • Start collecting all relevant hydro-meteorological data that is required for a risk assessment (of the drainage system as well as the sea defence system – see Section 3.5). Use a pre-set format for such data collection and store it in a national central data base. Apply gap-analysis to see which data is missing.

    • Use geo-informatics to collect data on land use, long-term shoreline dynamics (mudbanks), and flood events. Store these data in a fixed format in the central database.

    • Start analysing the data in a consistent manner and contributing to better understanding of the flood risks. Lidar data in combination with land use data can be used to prepare flood hazard maps. Long-term rainfall data (GuySuco) can be used to determine the frequency of occurrences of extreme rainfall events, which serves as input for the risk assessment.

    8 Technical short-term improvements
    • Consider the technical upgrade options listed in Table 3.2;

    • Consider improving the hydraulic efficiency by streamlining corners of drainage canals

    The above recommendations have been split up into short-term (2016), medium-term (2016 – 2018) and long-term (beyond 2018) measures in Section 4.2.

    No ranking has been applied to recommendation, since it is up to the Guyana government to discuss, prioritize and decide on the relevance of the measures.

    Final choices will depend on their funding opportunities and/or possible matching funds from other running or expected initiatives.

    Probably the most obvious running initiative to consider co-funding is the Budget Support programme from the European Union (EDF), even though this focusses on the sea defence. The outfall structures that cross the sea defence, however, can be considered an integral part of the sea defence and could logic-wise become part of the upcoming 11th EDF. Preliminary discussions on this subject with the EU representative in the preparation of the mission indicated that this could indeed be an option. In that case, in principle, some of the above recommendations may be considered under the framework of the 11th EDF.

  • demerwater  On 01/25/2017 at 3:48 am

    My reaction is little-changed after reading the full report here:

    Click to access pdf_DRR-Guyana-mission-_-rev2_1_final.pdf

    A lot of words that say nothing new or novel.
    If what I read is correct, then it may not have cost the Guyana too much; in which the cliché – You get what you pay for – applies.

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