Guyana Gov’t to establish committee to look at protecting Georgetown against floods

City Hall – Georgetown

Government plans to give serious attention to protecting Guyana’s capital city, Georgetown, from rising sea levels by establishing an inter-ministerial committee to look at developing a plan to address the issue.

This announcement was made by Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Nigel Dharamlall who said that it is the view and mandate of the new government that they will have to work towards protecting Georgetown from floods.     

“The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development will establish an inter-ministerial committee that will work very closely with the residents of Georgetown and the councillors too, to make sure that that elevation happens very soon, and that it happens in the best interest of national development,” he explained.

Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine told News Talk Radio 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online on Tuesday that he welcomes the decision to set up the committee and looks forward to seeing members of his council included in the plan.

“We discussed numerous matters during a courtesy call yesterday, and that was one of the issues we looked at. Anything to do with the city, I welcome it and look forward to seeing it materialise. It was the first courtesy call, so I await to see the outcome of these talks,” he added.

Mr Dharamlall said he is committed to forming a renewed relationship with the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown and looks forward to working more closely.

Georgetown is prone to flooding and relies on seawalls for protection. When flooding occurs due to overtopping of seawalls or heavy rains, sluice gates open for drainage. However, these gravity-fed gates can do so only when the tide is low enough.

A few years ago, Dutch civil engineer Adrianus Vlugman had recommended that Guyana move its capital inland to higher ground or invest more heavily in coastal infrastructure to withstand future sea level rises. But former Guyana lead negotiator to the United Nations climate change convention, Andrew Bishop said it would be difficult to relocate Georgetown inland. Instead, the government in recent years has moved to update its sea defence and disaster risk management policies and planning.

Photo: FLASHBACK: Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson (at left) with members of the Dutch Risk Reduction team in November, 2015.

A Dutch Risk Reduction Team (DRR-Team) visited Guyana in 2015 and spent days analysing Guyana’s drainage system in and around Georgetown. The DRR-Team said then that the poor drainage system in the capital city must be tackled from the planning stage right up to the enforcement of legislation.

The DRR-Team made seven recommendations, including an upgrade of the modelling and data management capability, increase flood resilience of people and businesses, upgrade dredging capabilities, and development of long-term plans. It emphasised the need for an integrated approach, both at the technical and management level.

In late 2019, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, who led a Commonwealth Expert Group on Climate Finance back in 2013, had said that concrete drains need to be built across the country, particularly in Georgetown. He suggested that revenues from the oil and gas sector can be used to facilitate that. Mr Jagdeo did not rule out relocating Georgetown and the coastal region, but has indicated that this will have to be done gradually.

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Comments

  • Wilfred Carr  On August 13, 2020 at 11:58 am

    So Andrew Bishop and others felt in 2015 it would be difficult to re-locate the capital to inland? why would he expect such an undertaking to be easy?

    It took the Brazillians over 60 years from conception to establish Brazilia, the now capital to the former interior of the country and the leaders of Guyana must learn to plan and take action where the benefits will come long after the leaders and their followers have passed from the scene(that’s why China is where it is now). The move would provide lots of jobs in construction if Guyanese really want to work.

    At today’s date(Aug. 13, 2020), there is an article on MSN which shows a number of towns/cities around the world including Venice, that are slowly being lost to the rising seas and the pictures clearly show the loss cannot be reversed. Any attempt to fix G’town is only a short term patch and those now in power need to be courageous and start the move of the capital up the EBD off the G’town/Linden road. As I said previously, a start can be made by decentralizing the Civil Service and providing land grants with title to employees as an incentive. Medical clinics later to be expanded to a hospital can follow along with other services requirements.The water is deep enough for ocean going ships to moor at new docks(Guyana has the expertise on this matter) and the existing road can be improved.

    A large portion of the new oil money can be put to building inland infrastructure for the future with some funding used to temporarily keep the water at bay in Georgetown while the interior construction takes place. After about 15 years, any new seawall construction will most likely fail(why would anyone expect that the foundation of the existing structure can handle the weight of another 6 feet height of wall? additionally, surely one should be aware that G’town is not the only part of the country’s coastal area which is under siege by the water and will be lost to the water.

    It won’t be a popular decision as the many supporters of the opposition live in G’town and property values would be slowly eroded. However, them’s the breaks in life and those previously in power everyone should have paid more attention as the city continued to flood over the years from the rain and the tide.

    Get moving Mr. Narine et al and go down in history as forward thinkers and doers who had the courage to commit to brave and wise decisions and not stop gap action for temporary political gain.

    • Brother Man  On August 13, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      The Islands of the Caribbean could also come under siege from rising sea levels. But where can they move to when the sea invades?

      At least Guyana can relocate inwardly. One day Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica etc. could be under water. It’s scary, it’s the effects of climate change.

      Get going, Guyana.

      Brother Man

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On August 13, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    “A few years ago, Dutch civil engineer Adrianus Vlugman had recommended that Guyana move its capital inland to higher ground or invest more heavily in coastal infrastructure to withstand future sea level rises. But former Guyana lead negotiator to the United Nations climate change convention, Andrew Bishop said it would be difficult to relocate Georgetown inland. Instead, the government in recent years has moved to update its sea defence and disaster risk management policies and planning.”
    ~ How shortsighted, Andrew Bishop et al! Where is the indominable spirit of the Guyanese working people who transformed the colony, controlled by the planter class, after the end of slavery and indentureship? Thousands of Guyanese, myself included, have left everything we held dear to relocate to distant lands to build life anew. Relocating Georgetown inland can be done. Some people just don’t want to deal with the challenges and hard work required. Much easier to mend the leak.

  • wally n  On August 13, 2020 at 4:03 pm

    I don’t think it will ever happen. Maybe you may see the government bringing in the Chinese, again, and then it will go down in Guyanese history as the biggest waste of money, after a huge fiasco.
    I still believe it can be more practical, to give back some beach to the sea, and move the sea wall, to a calculated distance, of course compensating the ones affected.
    This would appear to be an undertaking that Guyanese Engineers can handle, with a cost not overwhelming
    This idea of managed retreat, is not new, and has been used successfully, I feel
    it deserves some consideration.

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