President approves $25M for emergency repairs to sea defence
- possibility of permanent structure being examined

Guyana Chronicle
March 23, 2003

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PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday approved $25M for emergency repairs to the breach in the West Coast Berbice sea defence at Profit/Foulis in Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice).

This allocation was made when the President and Agriculture Minister, Mr. Navin Chandarpal visited the site earlier yesterday.

The sea defence was breached more than a year ago and a $100M temporary dam was built to contain the seawater from contaminating agricultural and residential land.

However, over the months, erosion has taken a serious toll on the temporary clay and pegasse structure, which is bordered by boulders.

Two areas have washed away. At present the tide is falling and the risk of flood is low. It is anticipated, however, that the tide will rise within the next eight to ten days and then the consequences may be severe.

In an on-site briefing to the President, Chief Sea and River Defence Officer, Mr. George Howard said it would require about $100M to fix the temporary structure, with $60M of that figure being spent on acquiring the boulders.

The inferior dam spans about two kilometers, while the breaches are at 1,350 metres on the western half of the two kilometers and at 2,500 metres east. This has caused a disruption in the flow of the façade drain, as the temporary dam, which was built further out on the land, has cut it off, Howard said.

“Over the last year and a half, the vegetation has gone from in front of the sea defence, leaving swamps which uprooted the sea defence,” he said.

“We have had to build an earthen dam. There are some areas where there are no boulders and the water has washed away the soil,” he added.

In response, President Jagdeo asked the engineers to do an assessment on two options:

** the completion of permanent work - permanently repair the façade drain and strengthening the existing line, or

** temporarily move the façade drain and go back to the original alignment.

This assessment report is expected shortly.

“Notwithstanding, we are going to release about $25M for the acquisition of boulders and to do some additional work in the area, pending the more permanent type of work,” the President said.

A significant amount of money from the Treasury was also spent for interim works on the Profit/Foulis section of the dam.

“We have advanced the discussions far (on the US$5M loan). I am hoping that as early as mid-year the loan would be approved. But we would have to do some other types of work in the short term. To do a good job you would need about $1B. That is the assessment and we simply cannot afford all of that in the Budget, so we have to do some temporary works until (then),” he said.

While the damage caused by the breach is not extensive, it has affected farmers, as the salt water from the sea has contaminated the freshwater in the drains and this has compounded matters for farmers, who are already suffering from the dry weather.

The President also met residents who gathered at the site of the breach and addressed some concerns raised by them, including losses suffered.

“I have asked them to do an assessment to see what kind of assistance we can give to residents in the short term,” he said.

The idea of delivering fresh water to the three villages - El Dorado, Foulis and Profit - which are affected by the inflow of salt water, was also examined since the supply of potable water is not adequate in those villages.

The President instructed the Regional Chairman, Mr. Harrinarine Baldeo, who was at the site yesterday, to examine closely the options available and to oversee such an arrangement if it is necessary.

Baldeo said while the drainage system in the area is not adequate enough to cater for a severe breach at high tide, much money has been spent to improve it and it stands “reasonably well’.

Guyana is located below the sea belt, which makes proper sea defence extremely vital. This has severely taxed the treasury and hence, Government has sought help to fund an effective sea defence system. (GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AGENCY).

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