Georgetown, Guyana : Insights into effectively managing flood risk

On a satellite map, Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, and its immediate surroundings, represent an elongated white dot on the coast of a landmass representing 215,000 km². Back on the ground, this relatively small area is the home of 39% of the country’s population and the source of 43% of its GDP. Yet much of this land lies below sea level and cannot drain easily after the severe rainstorms that are characteristic of the region. Guyana’s high level of poverty and lack of flood-protection infrastructure add further severe contours to the risk landscape – and a daunting possible interpretation of the country’s motto, “One people, one nation, one destiny.”

Call to action

Data going back to 1900 shows that Georgetown experiences major flooding every four years on average. New calculations, taking into account a reduction or increase in rainfall, as well as tide and sea-level rises due to climate change, reveal alarming projections. These indicate that the probable range of annual loss in 2030, related to flood damage, would range from 12% to 19% of GDP, i.e. between $1.1bn and  $1.3bn. In addition to the economic effect is potential negative impact on human health, such as the prevalence of diarrhoea, malaria, waterborne diseases and malnutrition.

Portfolio of resilience measures

A cost-effective portfolio of climate resilience measures has been identified and prioritised. This includes expansion of Guyana’s early warning infrastructure, new construction regulations, flood proofing and drainage improvement, as well as the mass relocation of agriculture out of the flood zones. The ideal complement to these risk prevention initiatives is risk transfer through insurance. Implementation of the defined high-priority resilience measures would lead to affordable premiums, while the risk transfer could insure against the rarest and most extreme events to limit the costs of adaptation measures. Risk transfer also provides incentives for private sector funding and frees up resources for other investments needed to stimulate vital economic growth in the area. 

GDP, %1

1 Based upon select regions analyzed within the countries (e.g., Mopti, Mali; Georgetown, Guyana Hull, UK; North and Northeast China; Maharashtra, India; Central regions of Tanzania; Southeast Florida, U.S.)

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