The sea defence project which is currently being executed by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure on the West Coast of Demerara was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Acting Head Kemraj Parsram recalls.
Speaking to Stabroek News on Tuesday, Parsram confirmed that the project was approved by the EPA prior to last year’s commencement.
Concerns were raised about the project after residents had reported to Stabroek News that the contractor was clearing mangroves on the Ruimzigt shore in order to place man-made structures.
However, Senior Engineer Jermaine Braithwaite had said that the cleared vegetation was dead mangroves and their numbers were naturally being depleted over the years.
Parsram reiterated that the EPA had been monitoring the area which has been going through a natural process of erosion.
“We have been monitoring the area over the years and it was noticed that it was prone to severe erosion and the mangroves were at a risk because of the encroaching sea. So emergency works had to be undertaken at that location, and in case of emergency, you have to decide what could be saved and what can’t. If you look at the history of the area and the satellite imaging you would notice that erosion was naturally taking the mangroves away,” Parsram said.
In terms of permission to do such jobs, he pointed out that since the EPA is part of the Sea Defence Board, any job taken on by the Work Services Group from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure would have to be brought to the Board and the Agency.
He confirmed that the project had been brought to the EPA for approval, and its scrutiny included the location and the type of work, before permission was granted.
Braithwaite also added, “It’s a cycle which is very characteristic of the coast. The sediment of the coastline moves westward and some area we have erosion and some area there is accumulation. When that erosion occurs at any location the plants die progressively. So there was a healthy fringe there many years ago but that started to deplete.”
He had also pointed out that the project was a necessary intervention and if they had left the remaining plants to die off then the embankment and surrounding communities would have been left to the mercy of the incoming tide.
The project is expected to cover some 860 meters of rip-rap works and is currently 65 percent completed. It will provide protection for the Ruimzigt community on the West Coast from the rising sea level and has a life expectancy of 30 years.