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Guyana must satisfy new EU rules before accessing sea defence funding

Violent Atlantic Ocean high tide slamming and overtopping Guyana’s sea defence.

The European Union (EU) on Friday announced strict rules before Guyana could begin drawing down funds to strengthen its sea and river defence systems.

The 10th European Development Fund (EDF) has allocated 14.8 million Euros to Guyana’s Sea and River Defence Sector Budget Support Programme.

However, the European Delegation here outlined a series of steps that the Guyana government would have to take before the money is released to beat back the sea and rivers.

The EU said Guyana would first have to invest GUY$5.5 billion into the sector over the next three years to prepare the groundwork and so satisfy the eligibility criteria and qualify for disbursements amounting to 14.8 million Euros.

“In order for Guyana to qualify for financial disbursement under the 10th EDF Financing Agreement, the Sea and River Defence Sector would have to satisfy specific performance criteria in investment and performance targets, including detailed annual implementation plan, capacity building plan, annual condition surveys of all 160 km of manmade sea defences and implementation of an Annual Infrastructure Programme as outlined in the Sector Policy Implementation Plan,” said the EU in a statement.

The agreement was signed by Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh. The Agreement was signed in EU HQ in Brussels by Ms. Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and Caribbean of the European Commission’s Directorate for Development and Cooperation (DEVCO).

Witnessing Singh’s signing were Head of the EU Delegation to Guyana, Ambassador Robert Kopecký and Minister of Public Works and Communications, Hon. Minister Robeson Benn.

Guyana’s topography renders it vulnerable to natural risks related to climate change and sea level rise as most of the country’s key assets are located in vulnerable low-lying areas and are protected by sea defences.  All of the country’s towns and major settlements and the vast majority of all ‘non–mining’ industrial activities, including agriculture and other economic activities are undertaken within the 425 km coastal zone – a fertile agricultural belt where it is estimated that 90% of the population resides. Much of this coastal plain lies at elevations between 0.5 m and 0.7 metres above mean sea level, but it is threatened by tides which rise to 1.6 meters above mean sea level.

The EU noted that the Guyana government continues to invest extensive resources into this sector to protect and maintain the structural integrity of the sea and river defence infrastructures and advancing sustainable shore zone management systems in Guyana, and have been partnering with the EU to protect and maintain the structural integrity of these systems. Over the past 5 years GoG has invested over G$13.3 B through its PSIP and Foreign investments  into this sector.  Also, Government continue to adopt and place high on its agenda alternative measures that will help to mitigate the effects of emergencies.