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Dutch offers to help Guyana improve drainage

The Netherlands has offered to assist the Guyana in the formulation of a plan to improve drainage and irrigation country-wide. 

This is according to Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, who told a post-Cabinet press conference on Wednesday, that “we have…been offered and pending approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assistance from the Netherlands.”

Since time immemorial, successive governments have struggled to provide sufficient facilities and mechanisms to improve drainage and irrigation facilities. Nevertheless, flooding continues to plague Guyana’s population, particularly residents of the low-lying regions.

The most recent flooding, which started in June, has done significant damage to private and public infrastructure. Many homes are still under several inches of water, and this morning the head of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) shared that shelters are still open to persons in Albuoystown who were affected by the flood.

Albuoystown was one of the hardest hit areas, and the CDC says that cleaning kits will be given to those seeking refuge at the shelters so that they can make their homes habitable again when they return.

The Dutch, having been pushed out of Brazil, were the initial architects of Guyana’s drainage and irrigation systems after they settled here several centuries ago. Having successfully executed complicated engineering feats in drainage and irrigation in Europe, they used what was learned to not only drain what was once vast mangrove swamps, but also to build canals, dams, walls, and other aids to effective drainage and irrigation.  

Once approval is granted, Patterson says, the Dutch will dispatch a technical team to work alongside a task force which is the process of being set up. The task force will be headed by retired Major General Joe Singh, and will include prominent local engineers such as Charles Sohan, Charles Ceres and Stanley Ming.

 “This task force will be supported by an administrative secretariat which has already been established and has been working over the past three weeks,” Patterson said. The initial thought, Patterson shared, was that the task force would assess and make recommendation on the situation in Georgetown, but the scope of the task force’s work has expanded to envelope all ten administrative regions.

The minister said that the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) will be instrumental in the task force’s operations as they will be partnered with to source information relevant to the initiative being undertaken.

Patterson also told reporters that a team has been put together to compile and go through a myriad of reports on drainage and irrigation which date as far back as the days of British Guiana. The content of these reports, the minister lamented, have not been put to use, but he says that the team has been tasked to “provide us and the country with a preliminary report within six months.”

The final report on the contents of these reports will inform government’s holistic approach to drainage and irrigation in Guyana.