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New Umana Yana will cater for fire and flood

When the Umana Yana, which was destroyed by fire one year ago, is rebuilt the GUY$66.7 million meeting place would be powered by clean energy and cater for fire and flood according to a top government official.

Speaking at the turning-of-the sod ceremony at the site on High Street and Battery Road, Kingston, Georgetown, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson said GUY$6 million have been set aside to avoid or minimize the chances of destruction by fire.

“We have in the contract six million dollars for fire prevention to ensure that there should be an unfortunate event that we are adequately prepared to extinguish the fire,” he said.

The Umana Yana was reduced to ashes in less than 30 minutes on September 9,2014

The Umana Yana being engulfed in flames in September, 2014.Patterson also announced that, in keeping with the maximization of the Indigenous People’s tradition of using nature’s resources, GUY$16 million would be spent on installing solar panels for alternative energy supply. “Obviously, you can’t have a thing of beauty, a thing of nature and let it be powered by artificial (fossil fuel) energy,” he said.

The Minister said another GUY$9.2 million would be spent on increasing the height of the foundation by another 12 inches to minimize the impact of flooding.

Authorities hope that construction of the Umana Yana would be completed by the end of March, 2016.

Amerindians from Moraikobai and St. Cuthbert’s Mission have been tasked with gathering and transporting the palm leaves to the site. There, the Wai-Wai master builders would reconstruct the “edifice,” he said.

The Umana Yana was a conical palm thatched hut (benab) erected for the Non-Aligned Foreign Ministers Conference in Georgetown, Guyana in August 1972 as a V.I.P. Lounge and recreation centre.

The structure was 55 feet (16.78 meters) high and is made from thatched allibanna and manicole palm leaves, and wallaba posts lashed together with mukru, turu and nibbi vines. No nails were used. It was erected by a team of about sixty Wai-Wai Amerindians, one of the nine indigenous tribes of Guyana. Fashioned like the Wai-Wai benabs or shelters which are found deep in Guyana’s interior, it occupied an area of 460 square metres, making it the largest structure of its kind in Guyana.

“Umana Yana” is a Wai-Wai word meaning “Meeting place of the people”. Renovated in 2010, the Umana Yana was gutted by a fire of electrical origin.