…urgent repairs needed, or country will face major consequences

Authorities need billions of dollars within the next two years to execute urgent repairs to the country’s sea defence. Failure to do so could result in major consequences for persons living along the coastline.

Georgetown Sea Defence during high tides

Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson has revealed that over 32km of the country’s sea defence is under immediate threat.
“We have immediately 32.9km [of sea defence] that are under imminent threat as we speak. It is estimated that if we don’t do urgent repairs…within the next two years, events such as is happening now in the Mahaicony District will occur all across the country,” Minister Patterson said.
These events include the severe flooding caused by overtopping during the high tide periods.
Flooding was so severe that farmlands, which were inundated by the ocean’s salt water, have become barren. Residents became vulnerable and suffered major losses.
Guyana currently has 473.3km of managed sea defence, stretching from Shell Beach in Region One to the Corentyne. Government allocates some $2 billion every year to maintain the sea defence.
But according to the Public Infrastructure Minister, much more is needed within the next two years, to address this immediate threat.
“The cost [for repair] for the next two years for this 32.9km [of sea defence], to rehabilitate and replant, is $14B,” Minister Patterson said. The Minister made these disclosures Thursday night at the University of Guyana’s Turkeyen and Tain Talks which examined “Green Building for Resilient Future Cities”.
Guyana is considered one of the most vulnerable Caribbean Community (Caricom) Member States as sea levels rise. Nearly 90 per cent of its population resides on the coast, which accounts for the majority of the country’s GDP.
Discussions have already begun at different forums on the need to move the capital city to higher grounds. But Minister Patterson has cautioned that such talks should take into consideration specifics, such as likely locations and what or who will be relocated.
In fact, the matter has already engaged Cabinet and according to Minister Patterson, a high-level committee would need to be established to look at issues like the relocation of administration centres, and the establishment of an entity tasked with urban planning and development.
Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon, during a post-Cabinet press briefing, noted that the Government has begun to consider several ways in which to address the situation, including the relocation of people living along the coast.
“We live in what is described by the United Nations as a low-lying coastal state … one of the priorities for low-lying coastal states is to look at how best you can relocate to higher grounds,” Harmon told reporters.
Already, Director-General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Kester Craig, said a major risk assessment on climate change is needed.
For now, he said persons can employ measures to protect themselves from the effects of climate change.
Some measures include building structures above ground and building pens for livestock on stilts.
“Those are some adaptation measures that have proven useful in Asia and other countries around the world,” the CDC Head had told this newspaper during a recent interview.
Moreover, he said garbage disposal is a major issue in Guyana.
“People continue to look at the environment and abuse the environment and dispose their garbage improperly. I think we need to be conscious about the environment. I think we have to safeguard our environment and property,” Craig had said.

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