GEORGETOWN, Guyana - President Mohamed Irfaan Ali says Guyana is facing the worst natural disaster in its history and it must make investments now to implement an adaptation plan to deal with the adverse effects of climate change.
The President made this statement on Saturday at the launch of an offshore construction facility in Water Street, Georgetown for Italian multinational, Saipem.
The President relayed his harrowing experience seeing first-hand how the floods have affected families.
“Just returned from Olive Creek, Kurupung bottom, Jawalla, Kamarang, spoke to people in Jawalla and Kamarang where their entire life has been destroyed. Everything they worked for all their lives have disappeared.
This is occurring as we celebrate World Environment Day. Natural disasters historic in nature, hundreds of homes completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of farms were completely destroyed.”
President Ali spoke of one instance during which a distressed farmer relayed that his avocado farm was completely destroyed and that the trees would no longer be there after the floods. The President said that the man, a father, gestured to his son, asking, “What is this boy going to do?”
Meanwhile, mining camps are empty as infrastructure in some areas have been destroyed, the President said, noting that seeing the devastation first-hand provides a much better understanding of the gravity of the situation.
Dr. Ali recalled flying over Black Bush Polder in Region Six where hundreds of livestock were seen stranded and would eventually die, with one case involving a farmer who lost everything on his farm, which had been operating for four generations.
“Going to those communities today reinforces the risk we face as a country. We have tremendous risk as a country. Never forget we are below sea level.
What is happening now is that the volume of water that has to be drained will create another havoc for those communities when the rain is gone. We have had the opportunity to look at the volume of water that has to come down. It’s frightening in some instances.”
The President said it is a very sensitive time for the country. Region Four communities have faced flooding, but it is not as severe as the disaster in Region Seven and the more remote areas. Dr. Ali said the scale of the disaster is misunderstood in Region Four, noting that the Hope Canal, constructed in response to the devastating 2005 floods, have shielded this Region from the worst effects of the flood.
He has asked his staff to collect contact data from the poorest affected farmers in every community as he intends to engage them directly to assure them that the Government will return their livelihoods to them and secure their futures. The President said it is the same message the Government would take to Linden, to the bauxite workers and to Kwakwani, Region 10.
Additionally, President Ali said Guyana cannot secure revenue and not implement a climate adaption plan.
“As President, I would not allow it… We have to make those investments now and the resources that will come our way will have to help us together, to make those investments to secure the livelihood of the people of this country.” The President plans to travel to Region Two to assess the flood damage there.