Finance Ministry to release emergency flood aid funds
--- regional drainage works being expedited
By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
January 9, 2004

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The Ministry of Agriculture has moved expeditiously to address requests by regional administrations to carry out emergency drainage works in light of the current weather pattern and resulting floods.

At a press briefing yesterday Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock and acting Minister of Agriculture, Satyadeow Sawh disclosed that as agreed upon at a meeting with several heads of administrative regions last Tuesday, requests from Regions 2, 3, 4, and 6 have been sent promptly for emergency works in their respective areas. Requests from Regions 5 and 10 are being awaited. He commended the regional administrations for the promptness of their responses.

The minister also announced that a request to the Ministry of Finance by his Ministry for the release of emergency funds has been favourably considered and evaluations and prioritizing are ongoing.

He noted that a combination of the decline in rainfall over the past few days and proper maintenance of the drainage system has resulted in the excess water gradually receding.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Dindyal Permaul explained that in emergency situations the standard bidding process can be waivered to facilitate the acquiring of the necessary funds to carry out the required works.

However, Dr. Permaul, declined from giving the figure requested, explaining that it is preferable to wait until all requests have been received and to work out a cohesive and comprehensive work programme. He added that Region 4, the most affected region has been asked to provide all the relevant quotations and pumping specifications.

Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Board (NDIB), Ravi Narine reported that a technical team has inspected the Clonbrook Sluice where one door has not been functioning and has found that the problem is with the winch there. As such an estimate for the cost of repairs is being prepared and a Saturday next deadline has been fixed for the door to become operable again.

As regards Buxton, another critical area, the CEO said that the pump there has been vandalised and parts required to make it operable again would be obtained by next Wednesday, but in the meantime water from the area is being drained via Guyana Sugar Corporation's (GUYSUCO) drainage system at Victoria and Good Hope. He noted that there is still floodwater but it has been receding over the past few days.

Responding to a question if adequate security will be put in place to protect pumps bearing in mind the vandalisation of the Buxton pump, Narine replied in the affirmative.

He also pointed out that during the heavy floods of 1996 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) advised that about 30 drainage pumps should be acquired to deal with such situations and so far 18 have been acquired, but these pumps are very expensive, so it was decided that in addition the drainage system should be restructured to make it work more efficiently.

Heavy rainfall during last December and this month has resulted in water levels rising appreciably causing flooding in several communities, particularly, the low-lying areas on the East Coast Demerara.

However, Sawh observed that prompt responses from the Ministry of Agriculture and the regional administrations, and proper maintenance of drainage systems have so far averted any disastrous situation.