Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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December 2008
(Aired 7 January 2009)

I continue to be amazed at how incompetent our authorities are at protecting our population from disasters be it security, damage from the elements, loss of jobs, high taxation poor but expensive electrical power, a non existent water supply and poor medical facilities.

   On the 11th January 2004 one year before the 2005 floods I wrote the following and it is recorded on my website TONYVGUY for all to see and I quote it, "the 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 are impeding the system of catchments so that the rainfall water can be delivered to the kokers swiftly after opening them during the rainy season.

   Let me give you the rainfall that occurred in this country between 1966 and 1976 to establish the high levels [of rainfall] 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 1992 to 2002 produced an average of less than 75 inches per year and everyone went to sleep in complacency and this included 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 drained 132.45 inches per year during the period 1966 to 1976, and in the mid eighties?

    I will tell you what happened to it; incompetence, victimization and corruption destroyed it. All of the historical data we have tell 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 [from the budget] given its population and its situation on the coast to maintain its infrastructure" end quote; I said so then because I foresaw what was coming, I foresaw it 5 years ago. That's what people of vision do ladies and gentlemen they foresee disaster and they make provision to avert it, not this PPP culture of coping with disaster after disaster as they arise due to a complete misunderstanding of the situation brought on by incompetence and corruption.

   In 2005 the situation was different and here is what I said in a commentary which was aired on 25th January 2005 called anatomy of a disaster and I quote it "Ladies and gentlemen we received 25.66 inches of rain in 5 days, there is no way that we can prepare ourselves for such a situation, no government in power could have stopped what happened to the people on the East Bank, the West Bank, the West Coast of Demerara and Georgetown but that should have been what happened on the East Coast as well, since they received the same level of rainfall, not the obscene sight of people standing chest deep in water up to Sunday 23rd January after the heavy rainfall ended on the 18th that was another story altogether, and if there was one person in the civil defense team that understood anything about what was going on, they would have understood the magnitude of the problem they were facing" end quote.

So now we come to the crux of the matter, nearly 100 years ago engineers, who understood what was going on in this country, decided that they will design a drainage system for Guyana which will take off 2 inches of rainfall every 24 hours in areas where there was housing; and in areas where there was no housing and was purely farmland they would design to remove 1.5 inches every 24 hours.

  They made a compromise decision to design this system, because even though they knew that there were going to be occasions when 3 inches will fall three days in a row and cause flooding, or that 4 inches could fall in one day followed by 2 inches the next day. The decision they made was based on pure economics and good sense i.e. that the cost of the losses that would occur when we get 3 inches of rainfall a day for 3 days in a row was so infrequent that it would cost less in losses than it would cost building and maintaining a drainage system which was capable of removing 3 inches every 24 hours, it would be just too expensive to maintain such a system. So we ended up with this compromise system which is supposed to remove 2 inches every 24 hours. This assumes of course that all drains have the right dimensions, the right depths and free of all debris to form catchments since the water only goes out when the tide is low and that all kokers and especially their outfall channels were in excellent condition. And I for one would enforce these criteria aggressively. No dumping of anything in public drainage trenches, no parking of fishing boats or other sea vessels in outfall channels, it should be a criminal offence with huge fines and seizure of vessels and boats were anyone found to be doing so. We removed all of the vendors on Regent Street and I for one supported it since they were blocking access to legitimate business enterprises, similarly for one fisherman to make a living with his fishing boat, he would park it in an outfall channel thereby impeding the drainage which can cost thousands of people millions of dollars in damages. It has to stop.

   Now we come to December 2008, now remember that in January 2005 what happened was unusual but everywhere except region 4 where the Lama conservancy was overtopping and flooding the East coast, since there was no effective way to relieve the Lama level, the flooding lasted about one week but on the East coast it lasted nearly two months. In December 2008 only twice did the rainfall exceed the design criteria of 2 inches in 24 hours, 4.30 inches of rain fell on the 11th December and 2.14 inches fell on the 12th but on the 13th no rain fell, and on the 14th  only 1.25 inches fell so in that 4 day period 7.69 inches of rain fell but if the system was working, we should have been able to drain 8 inches in those 4 days i.e. 2 inches a day, especially since the land was very dry then, being the beginning of the rainy season so a lot of this rainfall was absorbed by the dry soil only on one other occasion in December 2008 did more than 4 inches of rain fall in two days and that was on the 19th and 20th of December but on the 21st of December less than a quarter of an inch fell and on the 22 only around half an inch fell so the four day total between the 19th Dec- 22nd Dec 5.04 inches of rain fell, if our system was working properly we should have been able to drain 8 inches of rain and not be under flood with only 5.04 inches in a 4 day period; at no other time during the month of December 2008 did more than 4 inches of rain fall in 48 hours, so there should have been no prolonged flooding at all, if the drainage system we had built in this country 100 years ago and which was operating as late as in 1976 was in effect and operating. What we are hearing are excuses and nonsense about climate change, it's a very convenient excuse for telling the public that you don't know what you are doing.

   There can be no excuse for this, there are too many blocked drains, too many blocked outfall channels, blocked by fishing boats and siltation which no one seems to have any control over, there are too many incompetent people running our affairs wasting our hard earned tax money on nonsense and corruption. Telling us how prepared they are for the rainy season having spent 700 million of our taxes on drainage and are now standing in water up to their waist explaining climate change to the poor people affected by all of this. And most importantly since January 2005 after 3 full years of notice, the Government has failed to have an effective method of relieving the Lama Conservancy, since I am convinced that it is the lama that is causing the flooding in region 4 now.

  These facts should be made clear to the Guyanese who are suffering these huge losses, it was not an accident that houses across this country's coast were built on stilts, anyone who has their house sitting on the ground has no one to blame but themselves [oops.. hugh] and the incompetent housing authorities which allowed them to do so, since they will inevitably sustain damage from time to time, it is the way that the system is designed.