Rehabilitation works restarted yesterday on the badly-deteriorated seawall and dam at Mosquito Hall, East Coast Demerara but Works Ministry officials said they were just a temporary fix and that major reconstruction is planned.
Kevin Samad, Chief Sea and River Defence Officer, said that works recommenced after being interrupted due to poor weather conditions over the past few weeks.
He said that major reconstruction works have been scheduled for the area during the 2014 Capital Programme for certain critical areas. He added that designs are currently being finalised for projects involving the reconstruction of river defences in the area, which will be advertised for public tendering during this month.
After an on-site inspection yesterday, main opposition APNU called on the Ministry of Public Works and all other relevant government agencies and departments to expedite repairs and the structural rehabilitation work to the Mosquito Hall sea defences, while warning that immediate action is needed to avert a catastrophic event.
Works were initially expected to start over the weekend. A section of the seawall caved in on Sunday driving fear into residents. Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn yesterday told Stabroek News that the area is currently under rehabilitation and added that the contractor and force accounts unit are doing works on the seawall.
He added that it is a much degraded area, which made it very vulnerable to the recent high tides. He added that the harvesting of mangroves and soil erosion only heightens the problems faced with sea defence.
A resident of the area, Terence Gomes, had suggested that the seawalls should be raised at least two feet higher to aid in the prevention of possible flooding during high tides. Benn said that raising the height of the seawall has to be studied scientifically before it can be taken into consideration.
Benn indicated that Mosquito Hall is only one of the vulnerable areas of concern for the ministry. He said the Georgetown seawall and Cane Garden seawall at Leguan, Essequibo are of much more concern to the ministry. He noted that only recently, the ministry had to get a rapid solution for the problems that faced the Georgetown seawall and added that more work is expected to be done on the seawall. An exact time for the commencement of permanent works is not yet determined, according to Minister Benn, since certain procedures will have to be fulfilled before funds can be given to finance the commencement of works on the sea defence.
A team of officials from APNU, which was led by Shadow Minister of Public Works Joseph Harmon, yesterday visited Mosquito Hall at the request of concerned residents to inspect the crumbling sea defences in the area. In a statement issued by APNU after the visit, Harmon was reported as saying that what he had witnessed was the result of systemic neglect and a lack of a structured national plan to deal with the nation’s sea and river defences. “The Member of Parliament opined that because of this neglect the lives of the residents of Mosquito Hall was now in jeopardy and person most of whom are fisher-folk are now threatened by the very sea from which they earn their living,” the statement said.
It was noted that in his 2013 budget presentation, Harmon had warned that the $1.9 billion allocated for sea and river defences and the $143,392,000 to deal with critical works was not enough. “We are in a constant battle to protect and maintain the structural integrity of our sea and river defence structures, and to develop sustainable shore management systems to contain the ravages of the ever encroaching Atlantic Ocean and the Peoples Progressive Party/Civic Administration is not doing enough to safeguard the lives and livelihood of the residents of coastal communities like Mosquito Hall, Mahaica,” he was further quoted as saying.
Residents had expressed fear for possible flooding due to the terrible state of the sea defence at Mosquito Hall. They said that they are fearful that the seawall, which is being undermined by water, can collapse at any time and could subsequently plague the community with floods.
Samad said that two major contracts involving the rehabilitation of concrete river defences at Mosquito Hall were executed during the period of 2011 to 2012. These works dealt with problematic areas of the sea defences, which were undermined and frequently overtopped during spring tides, according to Samad.
Also, 700 metres of eroded earthen embankment were rehabilitated and adjacent drains were constructed for the storage and conveyance of overtopping discharge, in order to reinforce the flood defence system, Samad said.
He added that during December 2013, a private contractor received a contract to rehabilitate a section of earthen embankment and slope protection works in undermined areas and these works are scheduled to be completed by the end of January.