As wildfires rage on, VP Jagdeo underscores importance of investing in climate change adaptation

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Evacuation efforts at Santa Aratack

With an unprecedented amount of active wildfires across the country, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has underscored the importance of investing in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Wildfires have been raging across various coastland and hinterland areas over the past few days leading to displacement of residents and damage to crops and other forms of livelihood.

In fact, from January to date, over 1300 wildfires have been detected. INews has not been able to ascertain the number of active wildfires.

Addressing this situation during his press conference today, Jagdeo explained that while “very little” can be done to stop the fires in this prolonged dry season, the government will continue to invest in adaptation to climate change.

Some of the fires are caused by the heat resulting from the prolonged dry season, which is now projected to last until the end of April 2024.

The Vice President, who is also the pioneer of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), noted that this issue is not only affecting Guyana.

“This is something we have spoken about for a very long time – the extreme weather that we will continue to experience – that is why we are spending so much of our resources on adaptation methods,” he said, referring to the country’s investment in drainage and irrigation methods to reduce flooding in the rainy season and retain water for the dry periods.

He noted that over US$2 billion earned from the sale of forest carbons under the LCDS will be spent on adaptation, in addition to the sums given directly to indigenous communities.

According to Chapter 5 of the LCDS 2030 document, with resources from the Guyana-Norway Partnership, Guyana developed a Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy to set out a comprehensive and overarching framework for adapting and building resilience to climate change impacts. The chapter summarises elements of that strategy which includes strengthening of drainage and irrigation systems, building climate resilient agricultural systems, public health adaptation to climate change, flood management, among others.

The Vice President noted that the fires are currently affecting people across the country, especially the arid parts of the hinterland that depends on subsistence farming for food while the smoke continues to affect other communities. As a result, the Ministry of Health and the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) are mobilised to assist those in need.

“On the coast as well as in the hinterland, some of the areas, the crops have dried up and the fires have affected some of the farmlands in other areas in the hinterland, so the CDC is fully mobilised… We’re supplying hampers for some of the communities in Region Nine that have had all of their crops destroyed,” he said.

The CDC evacuated over 25 persons from Santa Aratack on Wednesday as the fires reached a critical point, rendering it impossible for firefighters to access the affected areas.

The Guyana Fire Service in a statement said it is working to combat several wildfires reported at Coverden and Heroes Highway on the East Bank of Demerara, as well as at Port Mourant, East Berbice-Corentyne, and Lovely Lass Village, West Coast Berbice, in Linden.

The Fire Service has since urged citizens to refrain from lighting fires during the current dry season, as these fires can quickly spread and pose significant hazards. Any fires or excessive smoke should be reported to the Fire Service via 912.