– Region 9 hardest hit
As the El Niño weather phenomenon continues to wreak havoc across the country, President David Granger on Wednesday established a ministerial task force to examine and scale up plans to tackle future cycles of the prolonged dry spells, the Ministry of the Presidency said in a statement
The task force, according to the statement, will be set up under the leadership of the Agriculture Ministry and is “responsible for the creation of an action plan that focuses on immediate relief for affected communities, as well as on medium and long-term plans, including the drilling of additional wells and increased water harvesting when the rainy season returns”.
This body, which will be chaired by National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) Chairman John Piggott, will include representatives from the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock; Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Raphael Trotman; Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder; Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan along with Director General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Chabilall Ramsarup.
Additionally, all of the key State agencies, with responsibility for various aspects of tackling the El Niño impact will participate in the work of the task force, including the NDIA; Guyana Water Inc (GWI); the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the Regional Democratic Councils (RDC).
The Public Health Ministry will provide a representative to focus on potential risks for water-borne illnesses and other health-related issues, the statement added.
The work of the task force will be resourced, following the completion of an approved action plan.
The statement noted that the task force which was set up in October last year to monitor the phenomenon will continue to operate and is now complemented by the ministerial task force.
During the meeting, the President was briefed on the situation and the work that the various Ministries and the CDC have been doing to tackle the now 10-month dry spell. It was noted that the Government would continue to concentrate its efforts on bringing immediate relief to communities affected by the impact of El Niño.
Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) is the worst affected area.
However, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam); Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara); Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) are also affected to varying degrees, particularly in rice farming and other agricultural areas.
The El Niño phenomenon, which began around mid-2015, already cost farmers significant losses, with thousands of acres of rice being destroyed on the Essequibo Coast and in the Essequibo Islands, Berbice and West Demerara, while cash crop farmers in many parts of the country, including Linden, have complained of massive loss of crops. The El Niño conditions are expected to continue to the end of June.