Sea defence weak spots pinpointed - shore zone work to start next year

By Andrew Richards
Stabroek News
December 6, 1999

The recently approved 20 million ECUs Guyana Sea Defences Project (GSDP) is likely to commence early next year and is geared towards strengthening the base of human resources and reducing poverty in a widely shared way.

Acting Project Director of the GSDP Execution Unit, Sheik Yussuff, told Stabroek News on Thursday that the Commission of European Communities approved the grant in September and consultants for the Shore Zone Management (SZM) component of the project should begin work early next year.

Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Anthony Xavier, had announced the approval of the grant recently, stressing the urgent need for the rehabilitation of the sea defence system to be addressed. The majority of the funding for the recently approved project will go towards the reconstruction of five kilometres of sea defences in critical stretches of Regions Two and Three, Yussuff said.

In Region Two, a 2.3 kilometre-stretch of sea defences will be built from Capoey to Columbia. Tuschen, Meten-Meer-Zorg and Hague in Region Three will also have new sea defences constructed totalling some 2.7 kilometres.

Yusuff described the areas identified for reconstruction as the most sensitive on the coastline and these were assessed in an appraisal study.

The supervision of the reconstruction works will be done by consultants and not government officers. One aspect of the project involves the provision of supplies, such as geotextiles and sheet piles, to be used in maintenance or emergency works by government.

The project is estimated to be of four years duration and the shore zone management programme and the reconstruction of the sea defences are expected to begin simultaneously.

According to the project director, the establishment of a SZM system entails the collection of data to assess and maintain the sea defence system.

The SZM system will be established in liaison with the other relevant agencies in the country such as the Lands and Surveys Department, Drainage and Irrigation Board and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The SZM will see aerophotogrammetric surveys and mapping of the coastal zones in Regions Two, Three, Four and Five.

A database covering a 100-kilometre pilot area of Regions Two, Three and Four from Devonshire Castle to Clonbrook will be compiled, Yusuff said.

He revealed that aspects to be covered in the database include sediment composition, erosion sensitivity of different sections of the pilot area, position of the coastline and maps of the potential risk areas.

A mathematical model will be created, the project director said, and it will be calibrated with the data collected in the pilot area. This approach is a first for Guyana, he stated, and is highly technical: "The focus of the project is on sea defences reconstruction but the need for reliable data to create a reliable design is important to the work."

Technical assistance will be recruited during the implementation of the SZM system to train and assist the administration in operating the system. The SZM system will facilitate early warnings and preventive maintenance, therefore extending the service period of the existing sea defence system. There will also be a study done on the awareness and involvement of the public in monitoring and maintenance of the sea defences.

After the completion of the project, it is hoped that there will be increased economic activity and employment opportunities with the enhanced protection of the inhabited zone from sea inundation. The project is aspiring to achieve direct corresponding effects with the reduction of flooding such as the lessening of damage to the infrastructure and loss of property and income.

All works for the project will be subject to international competitive bidding.

A report by a Dutch consultancy recently warned that Guyana was not repairing sea defences as quickly as it should be and that the focus was misplaced on emergency repairs rather than a plan to comprehensively tackle weak parts of the structure.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples