Dutch Risk Reduction team mission reportThe Government of Guyana has been urged to be more proactive in its approach towards flood and water management; a move that could essentially help in the lowering of flood risks in the city.The recommendation was made by the Dutch Risk Management (DRR) team, who upon the request of Government, carried out a mission to specify what could be done to better operate and manage the drainage system of Georgetown and the low-lying coastal areas. In July 2015, extreme rainfall had caused severe disruptions to the daily lives of persons living in Georgetown, as well as in several agricultural coastal areas. According to the Public Infrastructure Ministry, the losses incurred in the agricultural sector alone were more than US$100 million. In addition to the direct damage, it was noted that city flooding also caused serious health threats due to potential spread of water-borne diseases.Flooding is not an unusual situation for the low-lying areas of Guyana, with typical topographic heights around Mean Sea Level (MSL). Inundations occurred many times in the past, with sometimes devastating effects, such as the 1934 and 2005 floods.With that in mind, Government last year requested the Government of The Netherlands to provide their expertise on its drainage situation, both for Georgetown and the low-lying agricultural coastlands. The official request from the Guyanese Public Infrastructure Ministry was sent to The Netherlands Embassy in Suriname on August 3, 2015. In the letter dispatched, it was also requested that they comment on the coastal defence strategy, but it was decided during kick-off meetings that the focus should be on the drainage problems.In a report released on Thursday, the DRR team said the key issue overarching all the topics is that the present approach in Guyana to flooding is largely reactive.“Action is generally only taken once a problem has occurred and plans are made basically on a project-by-project scale and crisis-driven. An example is the placement of extra mobile pumps after the discharge capacity under gravity turned out to be insufficient. Other examples are the recent removal of solid waste, the excavation of drainage tunnels, or helping each other in case of shortage of equipment,” the DRR report noted.The report said a “proactive” approach has advantages as it generally lowers flood risks and can avoid dangerous situations, which in the future, may be less manageable.“This will be the case under less favourable conditions, such as combined high precipitation and high tides. Due to a lack of data or statistical analysis, it is not yet possible to determine the probability of occurrence of such extreme combined events, but it is clear to the team that the current flood management system is vulnerable and may collapse dramatically under such unprecedented conditions”, the DRR team, headed by Rob Steijn, said.The report noted that considering the economic situation of Guyana and the relative ease with which the flooding occurs under normal conditions, it is not recommended to consider new large scale, expensive infrastructure.“Instead, it is advised that Guyana take a large number of small steps over a period of several years (short and medium-term) that will increase the knowledge and the collective ownership of the drainage infrastructure among local experts, the Government, and the people of Guyana,” the DDR team expounded in the report.The report also outlined that by increasing trust, cooperation and local expertise, Guyana can become a “South-American example of effective and efficient water management”.This report also provides suggestions to make Guyana’s approach towards water management in general and drainage in particular more integrated and more proactive. The suggestions cover a wide palette of topics and include making a long-term project plan to gradually develop the hydraulic drainage model for Georgetown; improving flood resiliency of people and upgrade small-scale floating dredging capabilities; specify the requirements for small scale floating dredgers for the city of Georgetown and justify the investment based on a cost/benefit calculation.Also, the report highlighted that it should be decided on whether there should be a public or a private entity to run the “City Dredging Operations”, among others.The DRR team visited Guyana in the period of November 22-26, 2015. The various components of the Georgetown drainage system were visited, a fly-over across the entire coastline was made and interviews were held with leading representatives from governing agencies, potential funding agencies (EC) and relevant stakeholders.