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Guyana to examine US sea and river defence for adaptability locally

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 June 2014, 22:50 by GxMedia

Four engineers of the Sea and River Defence Department of the Ministry of Public Works are scheduled for a technical working visit to the United States of America. This was revealed by Public Works Minister Robeson Benn during a recent interview. “

The Minister was responding to a question regarding the securing of Guyana’s sea defence, in light of the rising sea level as climate change effects continue to be experienced. “Engineers will shortly be making visits to the Mississippi River Delta and the Louisiana Coast to see the US sea and river defence structure which are done by the US Army Corps of engineers, to get some cross fertilisation of ideas with regards to response we have to make regarding this issue,” the Minister said. 

He added that plans are also being arranged for visits to the Dutch Coast and the coast of Bangladesh “to learn from their experiences and share experiences.” “Fundamentally, it is to understand the processes, the hydro dynamics and then to refine, improve and optimise the engineering responses at costs which we can bear or which will be supported  by development partners,” Minister Benn stated. 
He observed too that the status of Guyana’s sea and river defence has been dramatically improved. There have been no significant breaches and overtopping as used to happen in the past or loss of national territory occurring, he pointed out. 
With respect to adaptation to climate change and the resultant sea level rise, the Minister stated that work is ongoing. In the first instance, the target is aimed at reducing the cost of building sea defences. “The cost of one linear meter of sea defence used to be US $3,000 to $5,000, we’ve got it down to somewhere to US$2,500,” Minister Benn said. He added that there is an intention to push the price down further with engineering inputs. 

Also aimed at reducing price, is the mangrove replanting exercise now being done through the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute. He also noted that Guyana has a partnership with the European Union (EU) which has been very reliable over the years. “Our experience with the EU has been good because we have been able to move from what was project support. They would give the money directly to the project, but their confidence in the system in our partnership has moved to the point where they’re giving us budget support,” Minister Benn explained.  “They are allowing us to refine the projects, put the money in the budget and we decide how we are doing it. That is a significant change in the way the development support is being done here with respect to Guyana and indicates a growth in the confidence that they have in the work that we do in this sector.” he added.  
While it has been accepted over the years that Guyana’s coast land level lies below that of mean high-water spring tides by about one metre, it has been recognised that there is critical need for strong defence due to the predicted sea level rise attributed to climate change.