Climate Change impacts testing local capacities

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THE expected 4.2 degree rise on global temperature during the first half of the century will raise sea levels by 15 to 30 cm by 2040, one of the many impacts of the climate change phenomenon; impacts that are touching closer to home each day. A case in point is the recent flooding across the country that has tested the capacity of drainage systems, which cater for approximately three inches of rainfall and are now having to deal with as much as eight inches.
Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Hydromet office show that the usual average for February is between 100 and 122 millimetres (mm), but in the last month this limit has been exceeded on three occasions, when there was excessive rainfall over a 24-hour period – the obvious impact of climate change.
Matters are made worse by those circumstances that are beyond human control, such as the recent breach in the Golden Fleece conservancy in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), where the impacts were worst than in the other regions.
That conservancy’s breach was addressed with a new door in a matter of days and impacts of that breach were not as severe because of the existing developments that were recently dealt with in an expedient manner.
In light of the increasing pressure on local response mechanisms, the investments made have justifiably been well placed.
Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud noted as much last Saturday at a public meeting with those affected by the floods in Region Two.
He stressed that the investments are justified since they have paid off with the minimization of the adverse impacts on Guyanese.
Only yesterday, carried in an often ‘questionable’ daily, there was a major critique of work to be done of a sluice door and the engineer’s estimate that the work would cost some $5.2M.
What was clearly lacking was a clear meaning of the word estimate, as well as the norm practised by many engineers.
According to an engineer, who offered a simple explanation, the estimates are based on a standard rate which carries different ranges for different types of works in different locations – all estimates are based on a particular standard; a rational person would understand that in this way the estimate would always be higher than the actual cost.
However, unconstructive criticisms based only on the need to oppose do not serve the intended purpose of hindering Government’s drive to ensure that Guyana can cope with what Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud describes as “the realities of the effects of climate change and the fact that Guyana lies below sea level and thus is subject to the vagaries of the weather patterns and tides that are a direct result of the climate change phenomenon and global warming.”
The effects of climate change have impacted and continue to impact negatively across the board in all sectors, more so the agriculture sector, which contributes to 35 percent of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In that context, strong advances continue towards ensuring the functionality and, wherever necessary, improvement of existing systems; with a particular focus on adaptation and mitigation.
‘Climate Smart’ agriculture is one of the platforms from which adaptation is being promoted and it seeks to ensure that agricultural activities are undertaken with an understanding of certain facts. These include the need to increase production, while increasing the sector’s resiliency and advancing practices aimed at mitigating climate change impacts.
The Agriculture Minister contends that climate-smart agriculture includes the development of flood and drought resistant rice strains in the rice sector; improved mechanization in the sugar industry; increased use of genetic systems to advance the livestock sector; and the use of new technologies for other crops and fisheries sectors.
More impactful in the past year, climate change has been a key factor for consideration in decision-making processes, implementation and development of programmes and even, in some cases, routine home management practices.
Guyana has taken a lead with adaptation and has many ongoing projects to improve the country’s coping skills.
The Guyana Mangrove Restoration Project (GMRP), a coastal development project, the sea defence works and the Low Carbon Development Strategy all pave the way for Guyana to respond to climate change.
Guyana is approximately 0.5 to 1.0 metres below mean sea level and, confronted by the challenges imposed by climate change, there is need for urgent action to strengthen adaptation and mitigation in the sector to avoid worst-case scenarios.