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APNU, Public Works Ministry differ on sea defence maintenance

APNU Shadow Minister of Public Infrastructure, Joseph Harmon looks on as a worker packs the undermined seawall with sandbags (APNU photo)

The Public Works Ministry on Monday denied that a weakened section of sea defence at Mosquito Hall/ Lancaster was being neglected, in the wake of concerns by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

Government said that as far back as 2011 to 2012, rehabilitation of concrete river defences were executed. “These works addressed problematic sections of sea defences which were undermined and frequently overtopped during spring tides,” said the ministry in a statement.

The Public Works Ministry’s statement was issued the same day  an APNU team led by Shadow Minister of Public Infrastructure, Joseph Harmon led a team to the area where temporary work is underway to support the seawall.  Calling on the Public Works Ministry and all other relevant government agencies to avert a catastrophic event, Harmon accused government of doing little to strengthen the sea defences from the vigorous tides of the Atlantic Ocean. “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 quoted as saying in a statement.

Mr. Harmon said that in his 2013 Budget presentation he 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. Harmon said 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 legislator feared that because of  that neglect the lives of the residents of Mosquito Hall were now in jeopardy and the fishing-dependent community was now threatened by the very sea from which it earns its living.

For its part, the Public Works Ministry noted that concrete works, a total of 700m of eroded earthen embankment was rehabilitated and adjacent façade drains constructed for the storage and conveyance of overtopping discharge in order to reinforce the flood defence system.

The Ministry said rehabilitation of a section of the earthen embankment and slope protection works in undermined areas was awarded to a private contractor began in December 2013 and were due to be completed by this month-end.

The Ministry also announced plans to use its Force Account Unit to fund the maintenance works in the area.

Government said  major reconstruction works have also been scheduled for Mosquito Hall/Lancaster under its 2014 Capital Programme for certain critical sections. Designs are currently being finalised for projects involving the reconstruction of river defences in the area which will be advertised for public tendering during January 2014, the ministry said.

The Mahaica area was recently included in a list of vulnerable coastal/ riverian communities specifically mentioned in the Ministry’s monthly spring tide advisory published in the local print media.

There were no reports of flooding at the Mosquito Hall/Lancaster area during the recent spring tides period.

Harmon was accompanied on his visit to the Mosquito Hall sea defences by APNU Regional Councillors of Region Four, Shondel Hope and Ramrattie Jagdeo as well as  Ronald Backer from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.