This evening I am going to give a commentary which is
more historical than political now remember that these are political
commentaries I am making no pretense that they are any thing else nor should I.
In them I look at the shortcomings of our three branches
of Government, the Executive [the President and his merry throng of throngs]
the Judiciary [the Law courts] and the Legislative Branch of Government [the Parliament]
and I try to describe how they are supposed to work in a democracy and how in
fact they are working, I was the first one to ever analyze the Auditor General's
report for the public, and I was the first one who began dissecting the budget
and the Bank of Guyana statistics for the public in a manner that any citizen
can understand, I remember that in one of my first commentaries which I would
like to think of as lessons in governance, put in language so that the common
man can understand what I am saying, a skill I learnt working on Sugar Estates like
Skeldon, Blairmont and Versailles for nearly 30 years communicating complex
technological ideas to the common sugar estate worker and we had to do it
properly since whatever else was happening elsewhere in commerce in this
country apart from a bonanza in 1974-5-6 we were competing in a harsh world for
international markets for our sugar, in that early commentary I said that this
is our country, we all own it equally, some of us may own more property within
it as individuals, but no one owns more of it than any other, so if you have
two thousand acres you have the same vote as a man who has 20 acres or a man
who has 2 acres or even a man who owns no acres.
Tonight I want to give the Government a rest I think
that we have examined what they are doing enough for awhile.
Tonight I want to talk about our history and rainfall. Now
ladies and gentlemen first of all I want to tell you that even I forgot my own experiences
and I built the Versailles Transmission site on the Ground but under my house
an old British Colonial, I never built anything on the ground and the only
thing in my "bottom house" are the old clay brick pillars and the cars.
The "old timers" had a reason for building their houses
on stilts in this country and we must remember it; and to protect the public the
building of at least 5-7 feet off the ground must be incorporated into our
building code to protect those who are putting themselves and their property in
danger by building on the ground, now remember that the Ocean and River defense
dams can give away at any time leading to flooding, in addition to flooding
from heavy rainfall so we must stop building our houses flat on the ground a
design which is only appropriate in countries which are above sea level and do
not get the high rainfall that we can and will get in the future.
The Lama conservancy is relieved to the Demerara River
by a four door koker located at Land of Canan, East Bank, Demerara there is
also a relief at Maduni in the conservancy itself but this relief releases water
into the Mahaica River which floods the people living and planting their crops
along the Mahaica River Banks when this high level of water is released from
I am therefore convinced that the Lama must be relieved into
the Demerara River alone! And this means that the engineers must get
together and design a structure with enough capacity somewhere on the East Bank
Road so that they can bring down the Lama level more quickly and efficiently
since this experience has demonstrated to us that that the present 4 door
relief at Land of Canan is woefully inadequate to protect the East Coast from
over topping by the conservancy in heavy rains or indeed if it is breached
anywhere along its length.
If we can do this then we need not spend too much on
sluices and increased drainage canals along the East Coast which have to be
maintained for 30-70 years before another flood such as this comes again, it
would not be economical to maintain such a bigger wider system but we must put
the system back in shape with a drainage coefficient to drain 2 inches in 24
hours at all times and invest our limited resources on the lesser expenditure
concentrated in one place which would require far less on going maintenance
cost, and put in place on the East Bank a substantially bigger structure
perhaps 5 or six of them instead of just one to blow the lama by 6 inches a day
in cases of heavy rainfall. Lives have been lost now so this has become our
number one priority.
In his autobiography Mr. E.A. Chapman wrote the
following and I quote his observations "The year 1933 closed with unprecedented
rainfall in New Amsterdam. From December 16th to 25th rain
fell almost continuously day and night. It seemed to have begun in Berbice but
it gradually fell all over the colony and caused floods. New Amsterdam was
under water at the end of the year and the countryside was in the same
condition. The kokers were unable to take off the great amount of water, which
rose to a height of about four feet in Stanleytown. In Smythtown and
Queenstown, the eastern sides were more covered and help had to be given to
ladies who had to go to work. In most instances, they were lifted out of their
homes, and sometimes half way out of the streets by male friends.
On Sunday, January 9th 1934 at 7.40 p.m.,
sudden bursts of wind with rain traveling at about 32 miles per hour struck
Georgetown and by 7 a.m. next morning 7 inches and 16 parts had fallen,
creating an all-time record, the previous record being 6 inches 88 parts on
December 26th 1893. Many persons in Church were unable to leave for
home until the next morning. In view of the fact that for the two previous
months there had been rainfall, this was more than the drainage could cope
with. The various conservancies and creeks overflowed in many places; dams
broke and the greater part of the coastlands looked like one huge sea.
Stores in certain sections could not be opened until
mid-day on the following Monday, and many streets were covered by water.
In the country, things were much worse; entire crops
were destroyed, and small stock and cattle perished in great numbers.
Government immediately organized financial and medical
relief for the country districts and boats with food and clothing went to
relieve the necessities of those who were marooned in their homes, while some
were taken to Georgetown to be housed and cared for until the floods abated.
In the meantime, Government transferred live cattle to
open dry lands. Many persons whose houses were on high blocks, put their
domestic animals to live with them. One woman who had done so was surprised to
see an alligator also seeking to gain entrance. She drove it away and quickly
shut her door.
The roads along the coast were about four feet under water
in all three counties. The railway line between Georgetown and Rosignol was on
a higher level than the road, and though covered by water, the cattle assembled
there. The train traveling at a very slow pace tried to drive them off by
puffing steam before it, but many of the cattle were crushed because of
unwillingness to go to the side where the water was deeper" end quote.
So Chapman saw and wrote about what we saw, one sheet of
water and the conservancies overtopping causing just as much destruction as the
direct rainfall itself.
The saying is that those who forget the past will be
forced to relive it. The funny part of all of this to me is that the May/June
rains have NEVER failed in this country, the December/January rains have been
known to fail many times, very few countries have TWO rainy periods a year as
we do, and the May/June rains have historically been the heavier of the two
rainfall periods, but sometimes apparently when heavy rain does come in which
is historically the smaller of our two rainy seasons, in December and January
in 1893 and 1934 and now in 2005, It does proper COME!