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Emergency supplies, warehouse for drought-stricken Rupununi

Minister Harmon surveys the proposed site for the setting up of a warehouse to store food and other essentials for emergency purposes.

Authorities are preparing to rush emergency supplies to the drought-stricken Rupununi, obtain dorught-resistant cassava sticks and build a warehouse to stock necessities, the Ministry of the Presidency said in a statement.

The announcement followed a high-level visit by top officials of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon to several communities in southern Guyana.

“Even as long term solutions were discussed, the Minister committed immediate support through the CDC to ensure the provision of purification tablets, water tanks and other related materials to combat the effects of the season, while the building of a warehouse in Lethem for the storage of food and other needed items is actively being pursued,” said the ministry in a statement.

Harmon, according to the government, has committed the government’s support to Region Nine to ensure that the impact of the impending dry season, is vastly minimised and long term solutions are found.

This commitment was given to regional officials and residents when the Minister of State visited the region to hear first-hand, how residents are impacted during this season.  Residents also provided recommendations and offer possible solutions, which can be implemented by government to ensure that in the long run, the Region does not become severely affected during the dry months.

 Minster Harmon assured the residents that the new administration will not neglect the communities, but will work assiduously to bring relief where needed.

“As your government, we are your servants. We are here today to ensure that the service, which we provide to you, is a service that is of high quality. I came here because I am your servant. If there is a problem that affects you or any other person in this country, it is our responsibility to respond to it and we will do so diligently,” he said. The visit was spearheaded by the Civil Defence Commission’s (CDC) Disaster Management team, along with support from the Ministries of Communities and the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.

Among the delegation was Director General of the CDC, Colonel Chabilall Ramsarup, Sherie Samantha Fedee, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Marlon Daniels, Ministry of Communities, Major Sean Welcome, Operations and Training Officer at the CDC and Lieutenant Colonel Godfrey Bess, Staff Officer in the Defence Secretariat, Ministry of the Presidency.

Stopping first at Bina Hill in North Rupununi, Minister Harmon met with officials from the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), Surama, Aranaputa, Kwatamang and Rupertee, where he listened to the issues currently being faced by that district with regard to the dry season.

Randy Gilbert, Vice Chairman of the NRDDB told Minister Harmon that the villages and the entire region, battle during these months, to ensure that that there is enough water for basic needs such as cooking, washing and bathing. To this end, Gilbert said that the cattle and farms are often neglected and losses are incurred, since the water supply is not sufficient to sustain farming activities.

The NRDDB representative said that central government’s help and support is immediately needed.

“Each year, there is a shortage of water during this season and we cannot allow it to persist as it is. We need deeper wells. Each community should and have to get deeper wells. The wells we currently have are too shallow and not all communities have them so we really need to look at this. The residents are willing to dig deeper wells but we need support from the government,” Gilbert said.

Over at Lethem and Sand Creek, Minister Harmon met with  Regional Vice Chairman, Carl Singh, representatives of the community, Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) and other government agencies, where similar sentiments were also expressed.

The call was reiterated for deeper wells to be dug so that a larger volume of water can be stored to sustain the needs of the communities during this period of the year. It was also expressed that there is a need for the provision of water tanks and other large storage apparatuses so that water can be conserved and managed during the wet season. Residents also suggested that ‘Water Committees’ be set up in the communities to ensure that the valuable resource is carefully managed.  They also called for the provision of dry season cassava sticks to protect the livelihood of farmers.

Meanwhile, Minister Harmon, in responding to the suggestions given by the residents, said that while the government will be looking to put short and medium term solutions in place for immediate relief, there is need for a long term plan so that the problem is not revisited every year. 

“I have no doubt that we can respond with immediate relief but we have to look at the help that we can give to the communities. We need to ensure that we can respond to the changes [in] climatic conditions. Climate change is a real issue and not a paper matter and we are seeing the effects of it,” Minister Harmon told residents.

He noted that when Government spends money, it must be able to assist residents, not only through the current issues but these decisions must also be made with longer term solutions in mind.

“It is these situations that justify how Government spends money.  We want to see how best we can help for the long term so that the residents are not affected in a severe way. We treat all of Guyana the same way and if there is a problem here, we must find a solution to that problem. Yes, short term fixes are okay, but we cannot keep coming back to the same problems year after year and subject our citizens and residents to this and so we need to find solutions to them,” the Minister of State said.

Minister Harmon related that the government will begin investigations into the merits of the recommendations made by the residents to see which can be immediately implemented. He also said that Guyana will begin using overseas conferences and trips to seek advice and help in combating the situation and finding solutions.

“We will have to invest in research and development in all of our related ministries to ensure that we don’t spend money on trial and error; that we can spend in technology that can provide you with a certain level of certainty,” he told officials and residents.

The government too, he said, will examine the feasibility of a water treatment plant as well as water resource management plans for the Region.

In the meantime, the Education Ministry has begun monitoring attendance of children in school while awareness programmes on the conservation of water have also begun.