Georgetown, Guyana – (March 09, 2016) The Government continues to concentrate its efforts on bringing immediate relief to communities affected by the impact of El Niño. President David Granger called a meeting this morning to facilitate increased ministerial collaboration for the scaling-up of plans to prepare for future cycles of dry weather.

At the meeting, President Granger instructed that a Ministerial Task Force be set up under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture to be responsible for the creation of an action plan that focuses on immediate relief for affected communities, The Task Force will also focus on medium and long term plans, including the drilling of additional wells and increased water harvesting when the rainy season returns.

While a Task Force has been functioning under the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) since October 2015, the President noted that there was a need for wider ministerial collaboration. The current Task Force will continue to function and will report on its activities to the CDC. This body will include, in addition to the CDC, the Ministry of the Presidency, represented by the Minister of State, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Ministry of Communities and the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs.

Additionally, all of the key agencies, within the Ministries, with responsibility for various aspects of tackling the El Niño impact will participate in the work of the Task Force. This includes the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the Regional Democratic Councils (RDC). In addition, the Ministry of Public Health will provide a representative to focus on potential risks for water-borne illnesses and other health related issues.

Chairman of the NDIA, Mr. John Piggot has been earmarked to chair the body. The work of the Task Force will be resourced, following the completion of an approved action plan.

During the meeting, Minister Harmon, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Mr. Rapahel Trotman, Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Noel Holder, Minister of Communities, Mr. Ronald Bulkan and the Director of the CDC, Mr. Chabilall Ramsarup provided and update to the President on the situation and the work that their Ministries and Agency has been doing to tackle the now 10 month old dry spell.

It was noted that Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region 9) is the worst affected area. However, Pomeroon-Supenaam (Region 2), Essequibo Islands-West Demerara (Region 3), Mahaica-Berbice (Region 5) and East Berbice-Corentyne (Region 6) are also affected to varying degrees, particularly in rice farming and agricultural areas.

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