The Ministry of Works is to examine best practices in other countries as well as look at more innovative ways to improve the quality of the sea defences, but in the interim is appealing to persons to desist from removing any material from the current sea defence structures, Minister of Works Robeson Benn says.
Acting Chief Sea and River Defence Officer Agnes Dalrymple repeated the minister’s call at a press conference last week emphasizing that sea defence was everybody’s business and everyone had a part to play.
She alluded to the flooding early last year in Montrose and other East Coast Demerara communities close to the sea defences and noted that there were external events which could cause extremely high tides leading to overtopping and which the department would not be able to control.
She urged the residents of those areas to avoid blocking drains or erecting any structures on reserves which could hamper the free flow of water, and said the department was working with the Ministry of Local Government and the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDC) to discourage residents from blocking drains.
Further she pointed to mangroves, steel rods and other material as being integral to the stability and effectiveness of defence structures, and urged that residents not interfere with these.
The Sea and River Defence Division is responsible for the inspection, maintenance and construction of sea defences structures.
In a brief report on work done last year, Dalrymple told reporters that some 4 kilometers of rip-rap sea defences in Regions Two and Three had been officially handed over in October. Additonally, she said that later this month tenders would be opened for 1400 metres of reconstruction and 18 kilometres of rehabilitation of sea defences. The preparation of designs and tender documents had been completed last year end for the works which are to be executed in Regions Two, Three, Four and Six, including the islands of Wakenaam and Leguan.
The supply of material for these works was to have been undertaken by an Italian company, Agmin, which Dalrymple said had since indicated unwillingness to proceed with the contract. She said the process had now been annulled and there would be a retender. A date for this new process was yet to be set.
She also revealed that the European Union (EU) under the 10th EDF programme had moved away from project support and would now instead provide budget support.
To this end consultancy services had been procured to develop a policy framework for the sea and river defence sector and a strategic environmental assessement for the sector’s policy.
According to her the consultants have since completed their assignment and submitted their final reports, and the policy framework has now to be adopted by the government.
She also reported on the success of a number of structures which had undergone maintenance or emergency works in several areas across the country.
Last year funds to execute sea defence works had come mainly from government, the European Union, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Department for International development (DFID). These amounted to over $2B.