Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Rainfall
(Aired 11 January 2004)

   Within recent times there has been much finger pointing and recriminations regarding the fact that many areas have been flooded after only 2 odd inches of rainfall in 24 hours.

    Our drainage systems were designed by the Dutch many years ago and was designed to drain at least 2 inches of rainfall within 24 hours. And the reason was simple this country has and does occupy a geological position on this planet to attract 140 inches of rainfall in any one year.

   So it was with a great deal of amusement that I read Minister Shaw's plan to deal with the flood aftermath after the recent high rainfall.

   To unveil his master plan Satydeow Sawh assembled the chairmen from regions 2,3,4,5 and 6 in the country to discuss compensation for losses which had resulted from the recent flooding.

   I will not deal with how, or, how much, the minister will dispense if anything at all, to those who lost property and crops as a result of the heavy rainfall, that I will leave to the social groups and the law, such as it is.

  What struck me was that Minister Sawh told us that a consultancy contract of 262 million Guyana dollars was established with a British firm Moot McDonald to examine our drainage system, to tell us what we already know. 

   Ladies and gentlemen the PPP have been very lucky in the 11 odd years they have been in power, in none of those 11 years have they had to deal with the traditional high rainfall this country experiences, especially along the Demerara coast from Abary to Uitvlught. And they have been complacent in the way they have maintained the existing infrastructure on the coast, since coming to power, especially in regions 4 & 5.

   If one looks at the rainfall pattern of this country over the past 100 years one will quickly see that the average annual rainfall at Skeldon was approximately one half of what it was at Uitvlught this means that the rainfall traditionally falls with more intensity as you go from the eastern boundary of the country to the western boundary along the Atlantic coast.

   I don't need any British company to tell me this, I don't need them to tell me that during the period of 1992 to 2003 this country received less that its traditional average of rainfall and that the drains that were existing prior to 1992 had to be maintained at those dimensions since every 12 years or so this country receives alternating high/low rainfall patterns, of course I was here in Guyana working on a sugar estate in the Demerara region and not in Canada fixing Canadian visas.

   And this lack of understanding of the potential rainfall in this country has led to the blocking of drains, diversion of drains, building structures in drains which can impede the system of catchments so that the rainfall water can be delivered to the kokers swiftly after opening them.

   Let me give you the rainfall that occurred in this country between 1966 and 1976 to establish the high levels this country can traditionally expect, and for this I will give you the rainfall as recorded at Houston estate during those years, in 1966 the rainfall was 118.4 inches; in 1967 it was 165.69; inches in 1968 it was 131.20; in 1969 it was 110.71 inches; in 1970 it was 157.89 inches; in 71 it was 140.79 inches; in 72 it was 112.05 inches; in 1973 it was 125.95 inches; in 74 it was 116.93 inches; in 75 it was 129.87 inches; and in 76 it was 146.93 inches. We did not know about El Nino but we knew that there were years of extremely high rainfall alternating with several years of low rainfall.

  During these 11 years the average rainfall per annum was 132.45 inches; the past 10 years produced an average of less than 75 inches per year and everyone went to sleep in complacency and this includes the chairman of the D&I Board, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture and the Government.     

   My question is what happened to the drainage system which took off that 132.45 inches per annum during the period 1966 to 1976, and in the mid eighties?

    I will tell you what happened to it; incompetence, victimisation and corruption destroyed it. All of the historical data we have tells us that the area which will receive this high rainfall and which has the lowest land level on the Guyana coast is region 4, that's why the Demerara Estates are not as efficient as the Berbice ones, it all has to do with drainage and rainfall, and in numerous instances I have shown you how region 4 has been starved for money, given its population and its situation on the coast to maintain its infrastructure.

    I can't tell you from my personal experience what happened on the East Coast, but in Georgetown we all saw drains being filled in by the city, Church Street for example and Ruimveldt, we saw them being blocked by garbage, being neglected etc. but I know first hand that the D&I Board told the Region 3 council that reducing the Versailles drainage trench from 28 ft to 12 ft will cause no long term problems, I had to get an injunction to stop them from blocking up that main sideline at Versailles or I and the Pouderoyen, Malgre Toute and Versailles villages, would also be under water now. And I want to congratulate and thank Judge Dawn Gregory Barnes for sustaining the injunction which stopped the nonsense that was planned for this main sideline trench, she did the right thing and she showed gumption in rendering such a fearless decision.

   These drainage systems were designed to handle huge amounts of water during our wet cycle of years and we must not mess around with them.

   If these drains are not kept at the original dimensions which will hold a substantial amount of water so that when the koker opens there is enough flow to clear the outfall channels and get the water to the Ocean quickly, then a secondary problem will develop, slow drainage guarantees silted up and blocked outfall channels, additionally low rainfall or narrowing the drains or blocking them with Garbage will also cause blockage of the outfalls which will result in flooding when the rains do come, I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that every outfall channel [this is the run after the kokers to the Atlantic or to the Demerara river] between Ruimveldt and the Abary are blocked and is contributing substantially to the slow rate of drainage.

   So it is a moot argument that we once had a good drainage system capable of taking two inches of rainfall water off the land in 24 hours and we don't need any British consultant called Moot Mc Donald at a cost of 242 million dollars to tell us that; we have destroyed the entire drainage system in Regions 4 & 5 through neglect and a total lack of appreciation of the consequences of our actions of not maintaining them at the correct dimensions and condition, we must never let ourselves be lulled into a false sense of security when we have a  few years of low rainfall, and neglect our drainage systems with disastrous results.

   But we will never learn.