Committee to assess flood losses
-but no promises says Sawh -record rainfall; 2.5" last Sunday
By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
January 8, 2004

Related Links: Articles on floods
Letters Menu Archival Menu

Minister of Agriculture Satyadeow Sawh says he has mandated regional officials to set up two committees: one to look at health and the other one to assess the losses to farmers as a result of recent floods.

Up to yesterday there were still a number of villages under water and with the predictions that there would be more rainfall the areas could remain flooded for another week.

Sawh told the media at a press conference that the committees, which are expected to be formed immediately, would be headed by the respective regional chairmen and the one dealing with health would comprise representatives of the ministries of Health and Local Government. The other committee to assess farm losses will comprise representatives from the ministries of Agriculture and Local Government.

Sawh observed it was the tendency of some farmers to overestimate losses so as to secure large compensation, but he said the losses committee would need to do a thorough job.

"But amidst this all I am not promising anyone that the government would compensate them. I would have to take the recommendations to Cabinet and present their cases and hope that the president would help."
Taking it slow: Stabroek News' Chief Photographer Ken Moore snapped this child gingerly making her way out of a yard at Buxton, East Coast Demerara on Monday. Floodwaters totally obscured the bridge so she had to feel her way out with her feet. The beauti

Additionally, Sawh said he had mandated the regional chairmen to draft a list of all of their short-term and long-term emergency D&I works to be presented to him tomorrow. Once the lists were in, a request will be made at the Ministry of Finance for funds to finance the short-term projects.

He said at the end of the flood he was hoping to meet with all stakeholders so as to draft a national D&I strategy to avert future floods. He conceded that the ministry did not have the capacity to handle the amount of rainfall the country had been experiencing over the past two weeks.

Chief Hydromet Officer Dilip Jaigopaul said only two times in the country's recorded history had there been such heavy rainfall during the months of December and January. He reported that between January 1-6 rainfall ranged from 4 inches to 6 inches which according to Ravi Narine of the D&I Board was far above what the pumps in the country could handle. Narine said the country's D&I system could only effectively drain one inch of rainfall per day. He said because on some days there was an excess, the backlog which was not drained along with water flowing from the backlands accumulated in clogged canals and further compounded the situation.

Jaigopaul said on January 4 rainfall was reported at 2 to 2.5 inches. He forecast that there would be a sustained drop in rainfall by mid-January and assured that after then rainfall would not exceed two inches for the rest of the month.

Sawh told reporters that Chairman of Region Four Allan Munroe had told him that the region was not prepared for the unexpected rainfall and even if it was the systems in place were not adequate to prevent the floods.

Yesterday's news conference followed a meeting of regional chairmen and the minister.

Apart from Region Four all of the other regions have reported that they were able to minimise flooding due to improved D&I systems which were installed months before.

Sawh said, however, that Munroe reported that for now the four trouble areas in his region were Buxton, Cane Grove, Nootenzuil and Clonbrook. According to Munroe, the situation at Buxton remained unchanged due to the malfunctioning of the drainage pump. But Narine said that the pump which cost some $25M and had been installed at Buxton four years ago had been vandalized, not malfunctioned.

He said it was very costly to repair the pump and until that was done Buxton would have to depend on Guysuco to help drain the water. Stabroek News was told that during one of the several eruptions of violence in Buxton last year persons had gone to the station and damaged the mobile pump.

At Clonbrook, reports are that one of the sluices was not working while at Nootenzuil the sluices were now undergoing repairs and as such the area had to depend upon the Victoria and Cove and John pumps to drain the water. Narine said a team of engineers was dispatched to the area yesterday to assess the situation.

At Cane Grove, Narine confirmed that two of three electrical pumps at Strathavon were in operation. He said there was another pump at Huntley, Cane Grove which also had developed mechanical problems on Sunday but that was now fixed.

With respect to Strathavon, Narine told the media that for eight years the third pump had been out of operation.

He said when he assumed the responsibility as CEO all three of the pumps were inoperable but they were able to rehabilitate two. He said the third pump was not repaired then because at that time it was felt that to replace the pump would be more economical than to repair it. He added that government had recently allocated $262M for improvement of D&I systems in nine coastal areas and Cane Grove was one of those. Narine said once the money was disbursed and everything was in place the malfunctioning pump would be replaced.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of Guysuco, Keith Ward, who also shared the press conference, told reporters that 90-95% of the total pumping capacity of the corporation was in operation. He said at the moment Guysuco had 19 pumps, 18 of which were in operation. He said two mobile pumps were also working. Ward assured that Guysuco was doing its best to ensure that the pumps worked around the clock.