With some 5.4 kilometres of critical and poor sea and river defences set to be reconstructed around the country under a joint Caribbean Development Bank (CDB/Government of Guyana (GoG)) project, a two-day workshop was convened yesterday to highlight the significance of the project and its timeliness.
Speaking at the launch at the Pegasus Hotel’s Savannah Suite, Chairman of the Sea Defence Board John Cush lauded the GoG and the CDB for financing the project. He said the total cost is approximately US$30.9 million, with US$25 million coming from the CDB loan and US$5.9 million coming from the GoG.
“It is intended that some 5.4 km of critical and poor sea and river defences will be reconstructed within regions 2, 3, 4 and 6,” Cush stated, highlighting that studies conducted in the mid-90s had indicated that some 40 km of critical sea defence needed repair and to date they have managed to repair a significant amount with the aid of other developmental partners like the European Union. “…Much more needs to be done to effectively maintain our lengthy coastline and it is for this reason that the GoG and CDB intervention is considered timely,” Cush added.
He said the project has six components: Food Protection Infrastructural Works, Capacity Building, Community Awareness and Education, Engineering Services, Monitoring and Evaluation and Project Management. “It is also anticipated that at the conclusion of the project not only will sections of the defences be rehabilitated but the capacity of our staff will be significantly enhanced and the maintenance and management system of the sea defence will be improved,” he added.
Representative of the Ministry of Finance Hector Butts stated that the project will also affect the economy positively along with the livelihood of all Guyanese. “The project also has an interesting macroeconomic impact because if you reflect on what it intends to do, that is the prevention of flooding, the establishment of infrastructure; and then if you reflect on what happened in 2005, you’ll recognize we don’t want a recurrence of that,” he said, stating that the project will enhance the ecosystem which will build confidence in investors. “They won’t have that fear and once the confidence is built we can see increased investment, which in a large way would meet the needs of Guyana in terms of employment,” he added, highlighting that preventing floods and flood damage would vastly impact the agriculture sector which is one of the pillars of the country’s growth and development. He added that the project will also run in line with the Sustainable Development Goals which aim to ensure better lives for Guyanese and to promote well-being.
He said the ministry understands the importance of the project.
Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson also lauded the project. He said that when he assumed office he was constantly reminded by the Ministry of Finance of the increasing difficulty in obtaining soft loans to do infrastructural projects. He lauded the CDB for providing it, as it was “extremely important to Guyana.”
“Guyana sea and river defences form part of an integral system that play a vital role in the protection of people, assets, environment and systems that contribute to the sustainable economic growth through the prevention of flooding and sea and river water intrusion on the low lying coastal regions,” Patterson said, stating that the government recognized the need for a comprehensive approach in managing the diverse and interrelated aspects of the protection of the coastal zone and as such the sea and river defence policy was updated last year to better serve and protect.
He said he is pleased with the CDB and the primary focus is flood protection infrastructure. “The project sites are located in 20 communities in regions 2, 3, 4, and 6, along the coastline…,” he pointed out, stating that the component of institutional strengthening will also be focused on as it is equally as important as infrastructural strengthening.
In addition to the sea and river defence resilience project Patterson stated that four scholars will be coming to Guyana to provide a drainage mapping of the entire Georgetown. The mapping will be integrated into software where it will be easy to assess the risks and flood-prone areas.