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Dutch team begins helping Guyana tackle flood woes

Minister of Public Infrastructure, Hon. David Patterson (centre, left) during the meeting with the Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) Team and local engineers. Present also is Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Noel Holder

The Netherlands has begun assisting Guyana in finding a “holistic” approach to the country’s drainage and irrigation systems with the aid of Government of The Netherlands, which will play a key role through the provision of consultancy services, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported.

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, on November 23, 2015 met with a three-member team from the Government of the Netherlands’ Dutch Risk Reduction Team (DRR-Team). The team will work in a consultancy capacity over the next few days.

The meeting was held in the boardroom at the Ministry of Agriculture and Noel Holder, Minister of Agriculture, was also present.

During remarks, Minister Patterson indicated that the partnership with the Netherlands would lend to a comprehensive approach to drainage and irrigation in Guyana.

Minister Patterson recalled that, in July of this year, Guyana recorded about eight inches of rainfall in less than 24 hours.

“Arising out of that, the Government felt that it was time we had a more holistic view, not only of Georgetown but the nation,” Minister Patterson said. He added that while work would have been done in the past to address Guyana’s drainage issues, a more “comprehensive” approach was urgently needed.

The meeting came four months after Minister Patterson would have made a request for assistance on July 21, 2015. In his correspondence, Minister Patterson sought assistance in a number of areas, including urban drainage; hydraulic and coastal engineering; water resource management and planning; and disaster and risk management.

Rob Steijn, Team Leader for the DRR-Team, emphasised the importance of proper water management to a nation’s development. The visiting DRR-Team also consisted of civil engineer, Fokke Westebring and social scientist, Judith Klostermann.

The meeting also saw the attendance of nearly two dozen local officials, including engineers from across the administrative regions.

Additionally, a presentation on Guyana’s drainage was made, during which, both local and international players shared information and posed relevant questions on the way forward. Of significant importance to the visiting team were the highlighted causes of flooding in Guyana, which included an increase in impervious areas; infilling of drains; reduction of maintenance; use of drains for refuse disposal; establishment of illegal housing on drainage reserves; relative rise in sea levels; and inadequacy of secondary and roadside drainage systems.

Also of significance was the recognition that flooding has increasingly worsened over the years, with the second highest amount of rainfall in decades being recorded in July 2015.

Meanwhile, the DRR-Team is scheduled to leave Guyana on Friday morning. Their visit will see them conducting a number of land visits as well as a flyover to get a better understanding of Guyana’s drainage system. The team will also be visiting some local agencies, including the Guyana Hydrometerological Department.

At the conclusion of the visit, the team is expected to produce recommendations which will in turn be used as part of a subsequent proposal from the Guyana Government for funding from an international agency, Klostermaan said.