Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Drains of Georgetown

Last week central Georgetown ground to a halt after a few hours of heavy rain in the early hours of the morning. Previous blogs ( have referred to the fact that the Dutch envisioned Georgetown as part of a huge plantation system and the English modified this to expand the City.

The foolishness of the post-Colonial governments in screwing up the system - mainly expanding the Public Hospital and blocking a few key drains in recent times meant that lower Georgetown ( between the Demerara River and the Atlantic Ocean) , where my office is located is a now a man-made created basin. My drains expert fumes about the stupidity of not providing one way gates for the 40-foot canal which drains Cummings Lodge and his theory is that the water gushes down and contributes to flooding the City which is under seige from uncleared and blocked drains.

So we took a second run with him sighing the Patience of Job when I puzzled over what he telling me - they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I walked with my camera to take a few shots in case anyone is in a position to do anything- as we have reached a desperate state where those who know have defeatedly started shouting solutions without thought of payment so someone else can take the credit and get paid handsomely.

Sothe basic problem is this at the bottom of Lamaha St and Urquart St:

Nope, I am not talking about the uncleared grass in the trench, but if you go up from DEC you will see a largish pipe. Back in British times, the Colonial masters threw on a train depot over the ultimate outlet for this canal which drains the lower part of the City-- mainly Cummingsburg. However, they maintained the drainage with a Koker to which a pump was later added:
Unfortunately that outlet is now blocked by the geniuses at BK Tiwari who threw up a Prime Spot building on the riverfront - slightly worrying as they are given many major engineering projects involving nuff money, implying more money than sense.

The post-Colonial government didn't help by contributing to blocking the run-off to the river by throwing up the Transport and harbours building:
just across the road from the defunct koker and
redundant pump.

So now picture that the gradient starts to rise from Lamaha Street, therefore logically the water from Church St to Lamaha St going from Urquart St to Queenstown until Irving St is supposed to drain into the Lamaha Canal but... the outlet is blocked. Parallel to lower Lamaha canal is the lower part of the 40ft Canal draining all the way from Cummings Lodge, taking in the neo-1992 squatting area of Sophia.
View of Koker controlling 40ft canal outlet to the Demerara river

At some time in the late '70s /early '80s, as a response flooding in Cummingsburg - no doubt exacerbated by blocking drains by expanding the Public Hospital willy-nilly and not maintaining the drains - a passage was cut to allow water to flow into the 40ft canal from the Lamaha canal:
View of channel from Lamaha St

View of channel from lower Cowan St

Unfortunately for everybody, due to unregulated building all the way down, the volume of water is too much for the 40ft canal and without some sort of gate/pipe with valve system the water from the 40ft canal would further contribute to the flooding of the Cummingsburg by draining into the Lamaha canal!

Ironically, the blocked drains and poor maintainence  saves Cummingsburg from further flooding from the over-worked 40ft canal - which is what I believe happened the other day: rain from up the East Coast draining in the 40ft canal spilt over into the Lamaha canal, most probably due to sheer volume and added to the woes of Cummingsburg struggling to drain its own volume of water, to bring that part of the City to a halt with higher-the-usual-water levels which took longer than usual to clear.

Also in the late '70s/early '80s, the city Engineers decided to relieve the heavy burden on the Lamaha canal, now draining Bel Air park due to blocked drains along Vlissengen Rd, Queenstown/Albertown  and Cummingsburg by putting pipes to drain into the 40ft canal - at this point one wonders if it is plain ignorance or a deliberate strategy to flood the residents out to grab Prime land?  Unfortunately, it tends to backfire and water from the 40ft canal drain instead into the Lamaha canal which has no-where to go resulting in Cummingsburg getting flooded and the northern part of Georgetown draining into the Lamaha canal via the 40ft canal??  The cynic in me says as soon as all that illegal money buys up Cummingsburg then I am sure sensible drainage will be on the agenda!
Junction of Lamaha St and Irving St..note pipe on left drain 40ft canal into silted Lamaha canal and bridge where the water connect with the central trench between Visslengen St and Irving St.

On the other side of Irving St/Vlissengen Rd, one would logically expect a continuation of the Lamaha canal and one would be so wrong-- I forgot to take a picture as Drains man friend passed and asked why he wasn't at a BBQ party- the man has places to go and people to see instead of running around the City explaining the madness that are the Drains of Georgetown! So on the eastern side of Visselengen road - where Bel Air park and all the way from Le Repenitir , there is the sad story of unregulated buildings and blocked drains preventing drainage into what should have been the continuation up of the Lamaha canal. Instead, bizarrely the 40ft canal cuts into where should be the Lamaha canal (!!??!!).  Yes, because sometime in the '70s/'80s people apparently filled in the main 40 ft drainage canal in Kitty and built buildings on it - just like that-- you could not make these things up even if you tried!

Mr Drains noted that to pump out water is quite expensive and the Kitty pump station serves the block with national park and the block with QC. His suggestion is to stick a koker/pipe with one-way valve - allow non-essential places to drain naturally and instead address the question of draining the more heavily occupied areas of Cummingsburg.
Picture of one of the oldest functioning kokers in Guyana

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