The sod for the construction of a $96M Regional Disaster Management Centre in Lethem, Region Nine was turned yesterday. On site were Minister of State Dawn Hastings-Williams; Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon; and Director General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig.
Minister Hastings-Williams, who has responsibility for disaster risk management in Guyana and within whose purview the CDC falls, in her remarks, said the Centre will be the first of its kind in Guyana but other such centres will be opened in Barima-Waini (Region One); Cuyuni-Mazaruni (Region Seven); and Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight). This multipurpose building would provide shelter for both men and women and will include a warehouse, training facility, conference room and office space.
She noted that the sod turning ceremony marks the first day of construction of a building to house staff whose mandate is to strengthen regional capacities for disaster preparedness and response; to reduce disasters and their impact through enhanced regional capacity and cooperation, and to boost disaster management capability for sustainable regional development.
“The Government is committed to building similar facilities to ensure these remote regions can effectively respond to emergencies and disasters on their own. The Regional Centre will house a warehouse to pre-position and stockpile relief supplies, a shelter to accommodate displaced persons, a training facility and offices for emergency personnel. The facility is expected to increase the efficiency of emergency response operations in the region by reducing the cost and time for shuttling relief supplies from Georgetown into the region.
The facility will allow for items to be sourced within the region for stocking the warehouse, which is anticipated to have a positive spill-over effect on the local economy. Additionally, the shelter facility will boost the region’s capacity to provide housing for residents displaced during flooding. The offices and training facilities will improve preparedness measures such as capacity building,” she said.
The Minister of State noted that the Government is cognisant of the several hazards the region has faced in the past, ranging from flooding to droughts and bush fires and has, therefore, taken a proactive approach to the management of risks through the CDC.
“This initiative is a part of a plan of continuous strengthening of the Region Nine Regional Disaster Risk Management System (RDRMS). Future plans include the establishment of a trained and equipped Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis (DANA) team, enhancement of Early Warning Systems (EWS) within Lethem and the development of municipal, neighbourhood and community-based Disaster Risk Management systems throughout the region,” Minister Hastings- Williams said.
Meanwhile, Director-General Harmon, under whose stewardship the project originated and was included in the 2019 National Budget, said Guyana should be proud of the steps it is taking in disaster risk management.
The Director-General noted that the facility was meant to be funded by an international agency but after months of back and forth, the Government took a decision to budget for it to lessen the adverse impacts upon persons affected by emergencies.
In addition, the Director-General of the CDC said that the $96M represents the largest direct disaster response capacity investment by the Government in the history of Guyana. He noted that the CDC continues to work assiduously to enhance the National Disaster Risk Management system in Guyana through decentralisation and building institutional capacities and mechanisms at all levels.