A European Union-funded project aims to take a more proactive approach in the management of the country's fragile sea defences thus enabling the authorities to be better prepared for emergencies.
The $407.5M contract to strengthen the Ministry of Works' Sea and River Defence Division's capacity was inked yesterday between the government and the European Union (EU).
Signing on behalf of government was Finance Minister Saisnarine Kowlessar with European Union Deputy Head of Mission Helena Laakso signing for the EU.
The European Development Fund project would see Dutch consulting firm Haskoning Nederland B.V. working to upgrade the ministry's technical capacity including staff training and establishing a reliable stream of data for the country's sea defences and coastal management.
Activities include the undertaking of morphological surveys, oceanographic monitoring, models and database, aerial photography, levelling and mapping and technical assistance.
The contract will also include an aspect of training along with the establishment of an integrated coastal shore zone management system to help with future planning for seashore development.
Among the areas targeted are the coastlines of Region 2 (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Region 4 (Demerara-Mahaica) and the islands of Leguan and Wakenaam in the Essequibo River.
On completion of the two-year project, the sea and river defence division should be in a stronger position to design appropriate sea defence structures and to plan sea defence construction in a structured way instead of reacting to emergencies.
Information gathered as part of the project will also have the capacity to assist other agencies including the hydrometeorological department, the Transport and Harbours Department and the Drainage and Irrigation Board.
Speaking at the signing ceremony at the Ministry of Finance boardroom, Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Anthony Xavier, said that with the new capacity the department would be able to better predict areas where focus was needed in order to maximise limited resources.
According to Xavier, with the new systems the department would be able to test more models of defence as a way of developing more innovative methods to serve the nation's particular needs.
He also used the opportunity to emphasise the need for the protection of the coastal mangroves as a means of securing the country's fragile coastline.
Laakso noted the need for proper systems of monitoring wave and tidal activity.