President Dr Irfaan Ali on Saturday reassured all flood-affected persons across the country, especially farmers, that his Government will make the necessary investments to secure their livelihood and future in the face of their massive losses from the floods.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Saipem Guyana Offshore Construction Facility, President Ali highlighted the disastrous situation that thousands of residents throughout the country are in with their homes, businesses and farmlands underwater. He also noted that hundreds of cattle have also been lost due to the ongoing inundation.
This situation was described by the Head of State as the “worst disaster” in the history of the country. As it is, the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) has reported that all 10 administrative regions in Guyana are experiencing varied levels of flood.
“When you speak about impact, I’m telling you about a farmer who from the last four generations had livestock that is no longer there today… Listening to a father in tears telling me that his avocado farm is completely gone – but worse is that the trees would no longer be there after these floods – with his 15-year-old son standing behind him and he glances at his son, and say ‘what is this boy going to do?’ A very emotional time across our country,” the President posited.
As such, the Head of State, who has been visiting various flood-affected communities across Guyana over the past week and is continuing this outreach today, has reassured affected families of support from the Government.
“I asked my staff to get the numbers of the poorest farmers affected in every community because I want to speak to them directly… and I want to tell them that this is not over. And that this Government and the people of this country would come together and we’d make the investment to ensure that their livelihood is returned and that their future is secured. The same message we have to take to Linden to the bauxite workers, to Kwakwani,” Ali noted.
According to the President, the scale of this disaster is misunderstood by those in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), which is facing the least impact of the floods caused by the heavy rainfall over the past two weeks.
This has resulted in varying levels of floods in communities. Those in riverine areas are facing the most severe impact of the floods with rivers and creeks overflowing onto dwelling and farm lands across the country.
“This is going to take some doing to recover from. Mining camps are empty. The infrastructure in some instances completely destroyed. Seeing it first-hand gives you the full extent of the gravity of the situation that we are faced with right now,” President Ali stated.
He noted that this disaster playing out throughout the country reenforces the risks to Guyana – a low-lying State.
“We have tremendous risks as a country. Never forget, we’re below sea level. What is happening now is the volume of water that has to be drained will create another havoc for those communities when the rain is gone. We’ve had the opportunity to look at the volume of water that has to come down. It’s frightening what is happening. I’ve had the opportunity to fly over Black Bush Polder, hundreds of livestock are stranded and would die,” he noted.
The Head of State went on to point out that Guyana will have to make the necessary investments now to combat climate change and protect its people.
“We have to make some investments now… and we will make those investments. We can talk or have someone lecture to us on what should constitute our approach for securing the revenue for the future, but we can’t secure the revenue for the future and have our people suffering and living in poverty and having their farms destroyed… and not implementing an adaptation plan to deal with climate change. I’m sorry, as President I will not allow it. We have to make those investments now. And the resources that will come our way will have to help us to make those investments to secure the livelihood of the people of this country,” he contended.
President Ali’s remarks came on the heels of his visit to Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) earlier on Saturday, where he pledged to assist the flood-affected residents. He was accompanied by Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and Director General of the CDC, Lt Col Kester Craig.
They visited several communities in the region to hear from the residents and to assess the flood-related damages. Among the areas visited were Olive Creek, Kamarang and Jawalla. Additionally, the President flew over several communities to gauge the scope of the flooding.
Additionally, the Head of State also met with the residents as well as the Deputy Toshao of Kamarang, which is a small mining community in the region. The residents’ concerns ranged from access to fuel to access to food. President Ali noted that while a team will be working around the clock to bring immediate help, long-term issues will also be addressed.
Today, the Head of State is slated to travel to Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) where, in addition to residential premises being under water, several farms have also been inundated and farmers have been pleading for assistance from Government. [This article was first published in the Guyana Times]