Georgetown, Guyana – (June 11, 2017) Acting Prime Minister and Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, today visited the storm hit village of Retrieve and the flooded community of Coomacka, Upper Demerara-Berbice (Region 10), where he met with the affected residents and assured them of Government’s support, which will range from the restoration of livelihoods through the provision of seeds and other supplies to assist in their rebuilding efforts.
Minister Harmon, who first stopped at Retrieve Village, said that the Government has been briefed on the plight of the residents and is committed to bringing relief to them. As such, he said that the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), which is responsible for the coordination of disaster relief efforts, will be working with the regional administration to assist the affected communities.
“We will work through the CDC to ensure that we give you as much help as we can. We will work with the region and the individuals to make sure that you resume a certain level of comfort in the shortest possible time. These [floods] and other weather patterns are a clear indication that we are facing the effects of climate change and if climate change was just a concept to some people, it is now a reality to you because you have seen it and what is happening and can happen and so we are working to ensure that when things happen in our communities, that we can respond to it,” Minister Harmon said.
Minister Harmon addressing some of the affected villagers at the Coomacka Community Centre
The Minister praised the residents for their efforts in assisting each other during their time of discomfort noting that this is the spirit which is needed as the country continues to experience flooding in various regions due to the heavy rainfalls and overtopping of rivers.
“I want to commend the community spirit of the residents here. I have been noticing that when we have disasters like these, that the residents and community come out and assist and that is a very good spirit for us here in this country. We have had problems with Regions 7 and 8 and persons came from all over the country to make contributions,” he said.
Meanwhile, Director General of the CDC, Colonel (ret’d) Chabilall Ramsarup noted that the Commission is working around the clock to bring relief to residents in all the affected regions and will too, work with the Regional administration and residents of Upper Demerara-Berbice to ensure that some amount of normalcy is restored at the soonest possible time.
Director General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Colonel (Retired) Chabilall Ramsarup handing over some seeds to Mr. Blair, one of the affected residents of Retrieve village, Region Ten, earlier today.
“This is not the only region affected. We have had flooding recently in Regions 7 and 8, which affected more than 350 persons. We have had flooding in Region 2 and the entire coastland can be flooded if the rain continues to fall. So we are trying to help all over,” he said.
The Director General handed over a quantity of seeds and other agricultural implements such as shovels, cutlasses, hoes and rakes to the residents, which he said can help them to make a new start while Minister Harmon handed over several boxes of clothing. The Regional administration, in collaboration with the Commission, is making food hampers, blankets and other necessities available to the affected residents.
Member of the Parliament with responsibility for Region 10, Mr. Jermaine Figuiera, in his brief remarks, said that the Government’s prompt response is a clear indication that it is paying attention to the wellbeing of the citizens, regardless of their location and this must be commended. More importantly however, he said that the communities must continue to work with each other and for each other so that they can soon overcome the setbacks created by the storm.
“We must work together to combat these situations and so it is important that we understand that communities must work together. I can assure that you have a friend in the Government and the local administration, but we cannot do it by ourselves so we must work as a community so that we can all contribute to solving the problems affecting us,” he said.
Minister Harmon examining one of the affected homes in the village of Retrieve as the owner makes a point.
Over at Coomacka, Minister Harmon during his meeting with the residents, said that he wanted to take a first-hand look at the situation to determine for himself what were the damages and needs in the area and to assure them that the Government is actively pursuing relief solutions.
In May, the Government deployed a team of engineers and other experts from various agencies to the village to conduct a site visit to explore several short, medium and long-term solutions, including the construction of a new main access bridge and the desilting of the Demerara River. These solutions are aimed at addressing the impassable roads and frequent flooding, which occurs during the rainy season due to intense erosion in the remote farming community.
Stemming from that site visit, the engineers and other experts had decided that a new drainage system needs to be developed to stop the erosion and shifting of sand into the Demerara River. A new bridge will also have to be built for the village and sections of the village, where mining once took place, have to be reforested. This plan of action has been drafted and Minister Harmon assured the residents that he will soon have discussions with the Minister of Finance to see how much can be accomplished.
“I am visiting to have a first-hand look for myself because the CDC is a commission, which I coordinate and the interagency task force that came up here to look at the situation, they have made some recommendations as to how we are going to deal with the matter here and they have given me [a plan in three phases]. We now have to see how best we can address the situation here. I will represent your case very strongly about what is taking place here,” he said.
Councillor of the area, Mr. Dexter Harding, in an invited comment, said that the Minister’s visit is timely as he would have gotten a personal look at the villagers’ plight. He, however, noted that the residents are cognisant of the Government’s efforts and are grateful that it is working to bring relief.
“I must commend the Minister. We have been working through the region with the various Ministries to see how we can appease the situation because when the water overtops, it goes straight through the homes, it destroys the livestock and everything else. The entire community is usually affected so it’s about 148 homes being affected. We have been pushing to see that we have certain things put in place and CDC and the other Ministries were recently in the community to look at the situation and so we know that they are working,” he said.
Before leaving, Minister Harmon took the opportunity to visit the community of Victory Valley, where he donated a quantity of sports gear to the young people in the area to keep them meaningfully occupied.