Public awareness key to coastal zone management
-- says Minister Xavier
by Linda Rutherford
November 24, 1999
WORKS and Transport Minister Mr Anthony Xavier is of the view that public opinion and awareness are critical to the development of a holistic approach to the whole question of coastal zone management, in the light of current global climatic trends such as sea level rise and global warming.
Delivering the keynote address on Monday at the opening session of a two-week `Integrated Coastal Zone Management' training programme in the Boardroom of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Minister Xavier said: "I find that we lack very, very seriously in this area", meaning a broad-based public awareness programme.
He went on: "We need to make the public more aware of the problems that we face, and perhaps, like everything else, get suggestions from them too, [since] they play a part in this whole thing."
Noting the ever-present threat of the sea to Guyana's coastland in light of its vulnerability at two metres below sea level and the fact that it is home to 90 per cent of the country's population, the Minister said not only was a workshop like the one in train commendable but that it also comes highly recommended to anyone having an interest in such issues.
Among agencies participating in the workshop are the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), the Guyana Energy Authority (GEA), the Guyana Natural Resources Agency (GNRA), the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Foreign Affairs, Office of the President (OP), the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNSB) and the Hydrometeorological Department of the Ministry of Agriculture.
It is hosted by the EPA, in collaboration with the Resource Analysis and Coastal Zone Management Centre of Holland, with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The whole objective of the workshop, it is said, is to bring together representatives of the various players in coastal zone management and to bring them up to date with the latest techniques, tools and materials currently in use in coastal zone planning and management which are to be implemented here shortly.
Training is slated to address such issues as the identification and assessment of major coastal zone management components such as natural resources, economic, social and administrative implications; the most efficient coastal zone planning and management techniques in use; and community involvement and public awareness.
As training coordinator Mr Senad Ploco observed in his brief overview of the workshop, the EPA recognised from the very beginning that a key factor to any activity related to Integrated Coastal Management should be appropriate capacity building and institutional strengthening.
"So this training should not be considered as an isolated event...[but as] the first step towards coastal zone management...and one of the many training programmes which will be conducted in the upcoming months and years to strengthen capacity within Guyana towards appropriate problem solving related to Coastal Zone Management."
Two of the most critical areas which come under coastal zone management and need to be dealt with urgently, Minister Xavier feels, are sea defence and sewage disposal.
He said while the Government has been pumping huge sums of money into sea defence over the years, with assistance from various international agencies such as the European Union (EU), the IDB and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), it has not provided the solution they sought.
In Minister Xavier's opinion, emergency sea defence work means constant monitoring: "looking for potential areas of failure and trying to fix those already failed", and not waiting for a sea wall to cave in or a rip-rap to fail as is often case.
What the Government has been doing so far, he said, is reacting to "so-called emergencies", or as he prefers "a quick-fix, which really and truly doesn't work".
He also touched on the subject of limited human resources in the public sector, noting the loss over the years of skilled people in the private sector. Despite these setbacks, he said, the Government will continue training persons.
"We have to continue; we cannot stop looking and working because the pressure on our sea defence system increases."
Among other major impacts on the coastal zone which also need to be addressed with varying degrees of efficiency, the Minister noted, are ground water resources, drainage and irrigation, the effects of agricultural activities in terms of chemical loading, solid waste and fisheries management, and the implementation of a land use policy.
Reiterating that these and other issues require a coordinated approach, Minister Xavier said: "I honestly believe that the totality of these issues cannot be handled by a single agency or unit".
He added that "the integrated management approach will require everyone who is involved to take the task and move to develop their sectoral plans within a broader plan for the entire coastal zone".
EPA Director, Mr Per Bertilsson, spoke of the role and objectives of his agency with regard to coastal zone management, while EPA Environmental Officer, Ms Ravita Diaram gave an overview of past and present methods deployed in coastal zone management. The session was chaired by EPA Operations Director, Ms Denise Fraser.
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