Residents of Mosquito Hall, East Coast Demerara are once again in a state panic after a 3.18-metre high tide caused the collapse of a large section of the inner side of the seawall yesterday morning.
Chief River and Sea Defence Officer, Kevin Samad, said the Ministry of Public Works will dispatch workmen today to begin works to temporarily fix the collapsed section of approximately 40 ft.
Angry residents did not neglect to point out that at the top of this collapsed portion, a brand new wall was recently erected.
In addition to collapse, there was also other visible damage to the seawall as a result of the high tide. At the time this newspaper visited the area, a Ministry of Public Works official was seen conducting an inspection.
Resident Ralph Jones said the recent high tides are unlike any he has seen while living in the area over the past 55 years. “In all my years the seawall never took such a beating by the waves,” Jones told Stabroek News.
Jones added that with the high tides and poor state of the seawall, he does not foresee the structure lasting longer than six months. However, permanent works for sea defences in the area are planned and are expected to begin shortly, according to Samad.
Samad said that on February 11, tenders for contractors to reconstruct the seawall were advertised. He added that presently the ministry is awaiting an award of contract which is expected to be done shortly. He said within six months he expects that works on the structure should be at least 60% completed.
Yesterday at Mosquito Hall residents were heard expressing concerns for their safety and they also voiced concerns about damage to their properties in the event the seawall collapses. “The minister said on TV that this seawall is not an issue and that it is just some overtopping but he should come and live here and he will see. At times, this water lashes the seawall so hard you can’t sleep and anytime anything happens, them gon can’t repay people for their damages,” a resident said.
Residents said that if the seawall was being maintained on a regular basis, it would not have deteriorated to its current state. They pointed to cracks and fissures all across the wall as they have done many times in the past.
“If anyone who doesn’t live here come here when its high tide, they are gonna run away. They will think the seawall about to breakaway and if this breakaway, we dead, especially with the high tides that surface during Easter time,” Jones said.
In an attempt to point out how poor the structure is, Jones took his hands and touched a piece of rock attached to the seawall and it came tumbling down.
At high tide yesterday afternoon, when Stabroek News visited, water was seen flowing through the cracks at the bottom of the wall, which is suspected to be as a result of the seawall being undermined by water. In addition, water was seen splashing over the seawall and settling on the earthen embankment adjoining the strip along the northern side of the seawalls.
This situation, residents lamented, is causing what used to be a wide trench that separates their homes from the seawalls to now become a narrow drain because the earthen embankment is being eroded by the sea water. Residents said this adds to their troubles because now not only do they have a poor sea defence problem but also a drainage problem.
One resident took this newspaper to his home where he pointed out water inside his yard as a result of rainfall and overtopping of the seawall during the recent high tides. As a result, his vegetable plants are now rotting.
“When something happens, then them gon bring people to patch! Years ago people used to do regular maintenance,” a resident said.
Residents also brought up an issue where during recent temporary works done on the earthen sea dam, mangroves were cut down in order to provide drainage but which appears to have not worked out as planned.
“You see them ad what they put on TV telling you to save the mangroves and that it does protect you from the sea? Well lemme tell you, the government
bring a big hymac and dig out all dem mangroves by the earthen sea dam,” a resident said.
When this newspaper visited the area in January this year, the earthen sea dam was badly deteriorated and subsequently rehabilitation works were done on the adjacent dam.
However, residents pointed out the abrupt end to the dam. They said that because the dam was not taken all the way up to higher land, during high tides sea water passes the dam and runs onto the road before settling onto the area from where the mangroves have been removed.
They did not deny that the government meant well by repairing the sea dam but rather blamed the poor judgment of the contractors who built the dam.
Samad admitted to having knowledge of the collapse and said he was made to understand the portion of the seawall collapsed around 4:43am yesterday as a result of the high tide. He reiterated that Mosquito Hall’s sea defence has been identified for permanent reconstruction.
In the meantime, while the ministry is awaiting an award of contract to begin works, he said he will ensure that routine maintenance work is done in the area. “If something happens and there is a contractor in the area at that point in time, they will address the issue before it escalates”, Samad said.
He pointed out that when a section of the seawall collapsed on January 3—similar to the section which caved in yesterday—the ministry promptly acted upon the situation. He added that the ministry plans to send an excavator to the area to repair the eroded earthen embankment in front of the seawall.
He reiterated that because of high water levels, there is overtopping.