US$1.25M, IDB project to upgrade Guyana's disaster risk management capabilities

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A GINA Feature

Guyana, located on the north-east coast of South America, is subject to Atlantic swells and high-intensity seasonal rainfall. The coastal zone, which lies near or below sea-level, supports 90% of the population and is the administrative, agricultural, commercial and industrial center of the country. As a result of the dynamic interplay between high tides, high rainfall levels, and a network of drainage and irrigation canals, conservancy dams and sluices designed to support agriculture, the coastal zone is at high risk to flooding. Also, flood and drought risks are also relatively high in several Regions of the interior.

The rate of sea level rise in the Caribbean is predicted to be five times greater than the world's average. This means that without anticipatory adaptation, sea level rise due to global warming is likely to significantly increase disaster risk in Guyana to levels that threaten the physical and economic viability of the coastal zone.

Already, from 1988 to 2006, flood events have affected 965,000 persons and resulted in more than US$663M in economic damage. Further, in January 2005, severe floods in the coastal zone affected 25% of the population, resulting in economic losses equivalent to 60% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for that year.

Government actions

To date, Government, with the support of the international donor community, has implemented several policy instruments and activities toward improving disaster risk management and coastal zone management in the context of climate change adaptation.

In 2002, a National Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Implementation Plan was approved. Following the 2005 floods, Government highlighted the need for a comprehensive plan of action for disaster response and risk reduction. A proposal for the reform of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) is under consideration.

In 2007, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) through the World Bank, under the Special Climate Change Fund, provided a grant to Guyana in the amount of US$3.8M, to finance a Conservancy Adaptation Project, which is under implementation.

Currently, consultations on Guyana's Low-Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) are ongoing and this project fits snugly within the LCDS which was launched by President Bharrat Jagdeo on June 8.

One of the central components of the strategy is climate change mitigation and adaptation measures that seek to protect Guyanese lives and property from the devastating consequences of global warming and sea-level rises.

The European Union is also providing support for coastal zone management and sea defence; the GEF for early warning systems, and OXFAM for shelters.

In spite of these initiatives, several constraints limit Guyana's ability to systematically reduce disaster risk in the face of a changing climate. These include the need to:

1. More accurately assess the impacts of sea level rise and climate change;

2. Strengthen disaster risk management institutions, including re-orienting toward emphasis on ex ante risk reduction;

3. Incorporate sea level rise and climate change in the design of sea defence and flood protection works; and

4. Manage flood risk within the context of a comprehensive development framework which integrates climate change adaptation planning, disaster risk management, coastal zone management, and environmental and watershed management.

These needs are in line with those expressed in Guyana's National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The IDB project: design and implementation of an IDRM plan

In order to address these needs, Government, in May 2007, requested technical assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to strengthen its capacity in integrated disaster risk management (IDRM), through the application of the IDB risk indicators and country risk evaluation and the updating of its National Disaster Plan to conform with the principles of IDRM, and toward investment financing in disaster prevention and mitigation.

These interventions will be designed in coordination with existing initiatives being implemented by the World Bank, UNDP, and other donor agencies.

On August 4, the IDB allocated to Guyana US$1M in non-reimbursable resources for disaster prevention to support the following priority areas of IDRM, including toward preparation of loans:

1. Risk analysis;

2. Preparation of prevention and mitigation plans;

3. Preparation of plans for institutional strengthening; and

4. Design of mechanisms for financial protection and risk transfer.

Objectives and description

The total cost of the project is US$1.25M, of which Government is expected to contribute US$250,000.

The general objective of this technical cooperation agreement is to provide support to Guyana for the design and implementation of a national integrated disaster risk management plan. The specific objectives are to:

1. Evaluate climate change-related disaster risk;

2. Strengthen national capacity for IDRM; and

3. Support the future implementation of the IDRM plan through an investment programme in disaster prevention and mitigation.

To fulfill this objective, the project will have three components:

Component 1 - Country Risk Indicators and Risk Evaluation (US$330,000) - Under this component a comprehensive flood risk evaluation of vulnerable Regions will be completed, with emphasis on the coastal zone.

Component 2: Strengthening National and Local Capacity for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (US$550,000) - This component will see the preparation of a Disaster Risk Management Act, and the development of a national IDRM plan (based on the risk evaluation and an institutional and legislative capacity assessment), including the preparation of action plans for risk identification, prevention and mitigation, financial protection and risk transfer, and preparedness and response.

Component 3: Design of Investment Programme for Flood Prevention and Mitigation (US$370,000) - This component will see the preparation of appropriate maintenance plans to improve flood control, the preparation of a priority list of engineering works for flood protection, the preparation of engineering designs for prioritized flood protection works, the assessment of national shelter capacity, including vulnerability assessment of existing shelter facilities (such as schools and community centers) as well as designs for new multipurpose regional shelters, and improved design of flood early warning systems.

Executing agency and structure

In order to ensure effective coordination between ongoing initiatives in disaster risk management, the executing agency will be the Office of the President, which is also responsible for the execution of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) financed project "Strengthening National and Local Capacity for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction". The technical responsibility and supervision of the project will be assumed by the CDC, which was established in 1982 in order to provide the mechanisms for planning and improvement of the country's national, regional and sectoral disaster prevention, preparedness and relief plans.

The execution of the project will benefit from a thematic coordination table (oversight body) on environment, climate change and disaster risk management, to be created under the Office of the President. This new group, consisting of public sector agencies, and donor and non-governmental organizations, will facilitate an integrated approach to disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.