PNCR’s Response to the Guyana Flood Situation

From:         The General Secretary, People’s National Congress Reform

To:              All Party Overseas Groups

Matter:       The PNCR’s Response to the Guyana Flood Situation  

Date:         February 9, 2005

Re: Flood Update

While the attention of the Guyanese has been rightly focused on the threat of water borne diseases, a more serious problem, resulting from the heavy rainfall and flooding seems to be in prospect. But before proceeding to treat this issue in any detail, it may be appropriate to say a few words about the health situation.  

(A) Health Situation

  1. The number of people who have died from the water borne disease, Leptospirosis, has risen to twenty four (24). And now there appears to be a threat of new diseases. The Party has received reports that Dengue Fever and Typhoid might yet rear their ugly heads. And the Head of the Caribbean Epidemiological Centre (CAREC), Dr. James Hospedales, has warned that there could be an outbreak of Hepatitis A. He said the threat to manifest itself in a matter of weeks as the disease has an incubation period of about five (5) week.

  2. In the meantime, the Party’s representative on the health team, Dr. Dalgleish Joseph MD, MP, has reported that fatigue has set in among members of this group and this affected the ability to visit different parts of the country. On Saturday, February 5 and Sunday, February 6, last, the health team consisted mostly of Cuban Doctors and only a few local ones. The health teams visited the East Coast of Demerara. On the former date, over one thousand (1,000) were attended to by a medical team. A shortage of health personnel prevented some areas from being visited.

  3. Dr. Joseph also reported that there were concerns about conflicting reports from the President and the Minister of Health as regards the number of people affected by water borne diseases. The Party’s programme, Nation Watch, on HBTV Channel 9, over the last weekend dealt with the precautions that need to be taken against water borne diseases.


(B) The East Demerara Water Conservancy  

  1. To return to the issue which is gradually assuming crisis proportions. A preliminary report of two Dutch Engineers, who have been detained by the Guyana Government to review drainage and irrigation structures have described the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) to be in critical condition and recommended that substantial emergency work must be done immediately. The Engineers are Olaf Dunin and Nisa Nurmohamed. 

  2. According to the report, the EDWC is a fragile construction which was built on peat and place soil layers. About 30% of the eastern section of the northern dam is in critical condition and about 10% of the rest of the northern and western dam is in a poor state. Long stretches of the EDWC are covered with trees and vegetation, which are forming seepage points. The dam is currently at a level of 58.4 GD and if water rises to the level of 59 GD, the overtopping could get out of control. The result would be numerous breaches and the release of around one hundred billions gallons of water into the coastal zone. It is in this context that the Engineers have informed the Government that they cannot guarantee the integrity and safety of the dam.   

  3. One of the reasons why the dam is still in reasonable order is because there has been some success in releasing water from the conservancy into the Mahaica area. This has caused misery to the people there, and prevented the conservancy from breaching into the coastal zone. The Engineers in a briefing to the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) on Monday, February 7, last, expressed their alarm that the Government had no contingency plan for a breach in the dam or a programme of evacuation for the residents of the coastal region. 

  4. In view of the critical situation that the dam is in, the Engineers made a number of important recommendations. These included: 

  • Substantially upgrading emergency works on strengthening the dam using contractors with floating equipment.

  • Limiting the speed of small boats in the conservancy as the waves eat away the fragile top of the dam.

  • The urgent need to inspect dysfunctional outlets and the identification of customized solutions for each structure in order to facilitate the discharge of water from the land, while maintaining the ability for closure at high tide.

  •  There should be a disaster management plan before the May/ June rains.

  • Improvement in the drainage functions of the outlet structures of the conservancy dam and the seawalls. 

  • In the medium and long term, rehabilitation works must be prioritized and speeded up in order to be prepared for future flooding threats.

  1. In the meantime, the Head of the National Drainage and Irrigation Board, Mr. Ravi Narine, has stated that the report of the Dutch Engineers is only a preliminary one and the Government will have to decide on what course of action it would take.

  2. In the meantime, reports on the condition of the dam are beginning to cause widespread concern.


    (C) Visit of Party Leader to Lusignan and North Ruimveldt

  1. The Party Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin MP, continued his visits to the communities on the East Coast of Demerara and other parts of the city. So far Mr. Corbin has visited most of the communities on the East Coast. This time around he visited the Lusignan Pasture in the morning and North Ruimveldt in the afternoon on Tuesday, February 8, 2005.

  2. During his visit to Lusignan, Mr. Corbin was able to note that the community is still under 3 to 4 feet of flood water. He took the opportunity to distribute bottled water to the residents. After leaving Lusignan, Mr. Corbin attended the funeral of 32 year old Forbes Jackman at the BV/ Triumph Mosque. Mr. Jackman died of the now prevalent water borne disease, Leptospirosis.

  3. During his visit to North Ruimveldt, Mr. Corbin spoke to the residents about their efforts to recover from the flood and how they are managing with the aftermath of the situation. Most of the residents explained that it was a difficult exercise and in fact it had not been completed. The residents said that they needed a play ground for the children and Mr. Corbin suggested that they submit a list of materials required to build the playground so that the Party could take a decision as how it could render assistance.

  4. Later in the evening of the same day, Mr. Corbin attended the wake of 18 year old Brentnol Fowler of Festival City, whose death reportedly occurred as a result of Leptospirosis. Mr. Corbin sympathized with the family and offered the condolences of the Party and that of his own family.

People’s National Congress Reform
Flood Crisis Centre
10 Camp Street,