–Minister Edghill says
AS Guyana continues to face threats of global warming and rising sea levels, Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, has signalled the government’s intention to continue working with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the European Union (EU) to finance sea and river defence works here.
“We continue to work with our partner, the CDB, in terms of financing and works in sea and river defence. Just recently, the EU, when the high level delegation came to Guyana, praised Guyana for the success story of how we have been able to work on our sea and river defences and have committed funding to continue to support both and the planting of mangroves,” Minister Edghill said.
In December 2021, the EU, as part of its budget support programme, approved the disbursement of some €7.5 million for Guyana.
It was related at a news conference, on Tuesday, that the funds represent the final tranche of payments under a multi-year programme valued at €30 million, which came on stream after Guyana lost Europe as one of its preferential markets for sugar.
Minister Edghill told reporters at his office that over the years, funds received under the EU’s budget support programme for Guyana were expended on the enhancement of critical sectors including housing, climate adaptation, improved infrastructure, and importantly, repairing the country’s fragile sea defences.
The EU Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Cantó, specified that under the programme, Guyana was able to build in excess of 10 kilometres of sea defences, while maintaining almost 60 kilometres.
“You have [also] planted six new mangrove sites; mangroves are those wonderful trees, as you know, that not only improve the quality of the air, not only improve the environmental richness of the country, but it also protects the country from the rising sea level,” Ambassador Cantó said.
Outside of the fund, Minister Edghill said that the local sea and river defence was strengthened with some 6,695 metres built and the maintenance of 64,651 metres of structure.
As part of its overarching plan to strengthen the country’s sea and river defence infrastructure, the government allocated a total of $5.1 billion for river and sea defence works in Budget 2021.
Earmarked for last year was the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of sea and river defence infrastructure in Dantzig, Prospect, Content, Fairfield, Zealand, Cane Garden, Uitvlugt, Anna Catherina, No. 63 Beach, Manila, and Bygeval.
During his presentation of Budget 2021, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Singh, had said the consequences of climate change, including rising sea levels, on Guyana’s sea and river defence infrastructure, could have a devastating impact on Guyana’s economy, since most of its inhabitants are on the low-lying coastal plain.
The minister made specific reference to the fragility of the Dantzig, Mahaicony sea defences, which had suffered a massive breach that devastated residents, particularly the farming community, which suffered loss to property, livestock and farming activities.
Additionally, a sum of $50 million was budgeted to construct geotextile rubble groynes, and to conduct topographic surveys.
Minister Edghill had said the government will do all that it could to achieve the country’s development agenda.
“As a government, we are not going to be hamstrung where development of Guyana is concerned. Guyana will be developed in a sustainable way, in a responsible way and while in some development we may lose a few mangroves, we will be planting more mangroves,” the minister affirmed.
He said the government is not callous on the destruction of mangroves, as it recognises the importance of the country’s sea and river defence.
Edghill said: “We value mangroves, we will plant more mangroves and where development is taking place and where mangroves will be destroyed, we will have to have some compensatory effect to ensure that everything is done in a sustainable and orderly manner.”
Further, during the second quarter of 2021, the government expended $233 million on riprap sea defence at Anna Catherina, on the West Coast of Demerara (WCD). Similar projects were also undertaken at Uitvlugt and Zeelugt during the year.
The Uitvlugt project, which costs $226 million, covers 300 metres of sea defence, and forms part of a comprehensive set of sea defence works being undertaken in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara).
Those works, totalling $620 million altogether, also stretched across the communities of Anna Catherina and Zeelugt, covering a total of 800 metres of shoreline across the WCD.
The contracts for works at Uitvlugt and Anna Catherina, which surpassed $459 million, were awarded to Puran Brothers Disposal Incorporated, while the $159,899,600 contract for work at Zeelugt was awarded to Platinum Investments Incorporated.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar, had previously said that the government recognises the discomfort and dangers that inadequate sea defences could bring to a community.