Squatters hindering construction of permanent sea defences

- Vaughn

Head of the Sea and River Defence Department Geoffrey Vaughn has said the presence of squatters on government reserves is hampering ongoing works to safeguard communities on the coastline.

“If this does not cease, we will find ourselves in deep trouble,” he was quoted as saying in an interview the Government Information Agency (GINA).

Vaughn said that squatting is hampering ongoing work as well as planned work meant to safeguard the livelihood of persons living on the coast. He said that government’s investment in building sea defence has been ongoing but it cannot waste taxpayers’ money given the obstacles to their longevity. “This has come to haunt us again with what is happening at Herstelling, what is happening at Covent Garden and there are many other areas that this is happening. And the problem that we are going to have is that on the rebound we are going to feel the squeeze once we don’t get those persons to understand that there is a regulation that persons should not be squatting on the embankment,” he also said.

GINA noted that the prevailing La Nina conditions have been exacerbated by the rising tide and sea defence breaches, which have resulted in flooding to several communities.

Meanwhile, GINA reported that over the weekend the ministry deployed workers to Herstelling and Providence to address the situation and it has been remedied. Vaughn also said plans are in train to complete permanent works once they are able to remove the squatters from the embankment. He also acknowledged that there have been instances of overtopping in some areas along the East Bank Demerara, Wakenaam and in Essequibo but these are not primarily due to breaches in the sea defence. “We have to take into account the compounded issue of high tide and the current rainfall,” he said.

According to GINA, there has also been overtopping on the West Coast Demerara, which is not due to any breach. Vaughn said at Covent Garden an area has eroded completely and the Public Works Ministry is working to mobilise contractors or a team from its employ to seal the area off completely at the earliest possible opportunity. “We are trying our best to urgently address that situation there because persons have been flooded out in that area,” he said. Persons have also been affected at Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary, GINA noted and it said that this is due to the water being pumped from the conservancy into the Mahaica and Mahaicony creeks, compounded with the spring tide that the area experienced over the weekend.

According to Vaughn, a team has been deployed there to inspect works in order to determine which areas need immediate work, such as the raising of the dam, parts of which have eroded. He gave assurances that interventions in the area will be done immediately. He said too that his department is currently addressing the erosion of the sea dam at No. 36 Village, Corentyne. “What has been happening is that most of the areas that have been affected, we are trying to ensure that we address them and address them now and not wait ’til the issue is far compounded as to be catastrophic,” he said. The current spring tide period is expected to end on Thursday. In the meantime, he urged residents to be vigilant as the water is still above the three-metre mark.

GINA also said on Monday Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud commissioned a new $165.7M sluice and channel at Retrieve, Mahaicony, which is expected to drastically improve drainage in those areas.