PNCR Presidential candidate Brigadier (ret) David Granger, PNCR MP, Dr. George Norton and GYSM Chairman Christopher Jones visited Lethem, Rupununi which was affected by severe flooding over the last 5 days. The team carried relief supplies and emergency equipment for distribution to the residents. Items were distributed to displaced persons who have been housed temporarily, at Culvert City Nursery School and Arapaima Primary School.
The team also toured the affected area by boat. The Rupununi Region nearly 58,000 km2 is Guyana’ s largest Region. Surprisingly, the infrastructure is so poorly developed that rainfall in early June has completely cut the Region off from the rest of the country. Parts of the Linden – Lethem road are inundated and vehicles and passengers have been stranded and are unable to reach their destinations.
The runway at the Lethem aerodrome is cracking up and becoming dangerous to aircraft. Boats have to be used to move around parts of the town. The situation has been aggravated by unplanned settlement, under-developed infrastructure and an unprepared administration which was overwhelmed by the catastrophe.
It is well known that the weather patterns in the Rupununi savannah are unique and vary significantly from those in the rest of the country. There is one long dry season from August to April and one long wet season from May to July. In fact there was an almost identical flood exactly five years ago. Yet, the administration failed to prepare for a possible recurrence.
There seems to be no disaster preparedness plan for the Region. No Civil Defence stores have been stocked there although there is an empty warehouse which is not being used. No mobilisation of voluntary relief workers seems to have taken place.
The PNCR has demanded that the Linden–Lethem roadway be completed and surfaced as quickly as possible to ensure the integration of the Region with the rest of the country. It insists also, that Lethem must be upgraded to the status of a town to allow residents to elect a municipality which is more concerned about their interests. A volunteer Militia must be recruited, trained and equipped to carry out civil defence tasks and protect the community during fire, floods and other disasters.
The present catastrophe – like that of June 2006 – is an environmental warning that must not be ignored.