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Gov’t, EU partner for sustainable management of Guyana’s sea defence

A section of those who participated in the workshop.

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) says it is looking at ways to improve Guyana’s sea defence system, and as such is in the process of finalising a coastal engineering design manual, with the support of the European Union (EU).

A two-day staff training workshop kicked off Tuesday, December 8, 2015, at the Cara Lodge and Minister of Public Infrastructure, Honourable David Patterson as well as EU Ambassador to Guyana, Jernej Videtič, delivered brief remarks.

Under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) framework from 2007 to 2013, EU–Guyana cooperation has focused on a number of areas, including sea defences.

The beneficiary of this latest project – the production of a Coastal Engineering Design Manual – is the Guyana Sea and River Defence Division, under MPI.

During today’s workshop, Minister Patterson explained that coastal engineering management is particularly important to Guyana due to factors such as climate change and the fact that Guyana is below sea level.

Minister Patterson thus emphasised that Guyana must look at sustainable and long-term solutions to sea defence.

“It’s very important that we recognise that coastal engineering extends way beyond the construction of physical sea barriers,” he said.

He further said the production of a design manual and the discussions which would come out of the workshop were important in the Government’s fight to ensure that the citizenry is protected.

Minister Patterson also acknowledged the EU’s role and noted that the international body has been a major donor to Guyana in regards to sea defence. He said too that it was important that the Ministry and EU came together to train staff and inform them about the manual before it is implemented.

He expressed hope that the workshop would foster more innovative methods of sea defence.

Similarly, EU Ambassador Videtič also hailed the need for sustainability in Guyana’s sea defence system. He stated that coastal engineering was an important sector which has seen the Government of Guyana and EU working together to solve issues. He added that sea defence has been a focus of the EU for decades.

In terms of Guyana’s sea defence, the Ambassador said that due to the lack of adequate maintenance of existing barriers along with the gradual destruction of mangrove forests, the protection of Guyana’s coastal zone was drastically reduced. This reduction, he said, has increased the need for rehabilitation while long-term sustainable measures became urgent.

He concluded by stressing that the manual will be a useful and easily accessible tool and he expressed hope that it will be used to build a strong strategy for Guyana.

The present manual aims to provide appropriate and practical guidance for applications of methods and techniques in regards to the design and implementation of coastal engineering projects in Guyana. These projects concern new constructions or repair and rehabilitation of existing ones; the prevention of the erosion of oceanic, estuarine, and recessed coasts; coastal flooding; and the heavy damage from wave attacks to valuable coastal commercial, urban, and tourist communities of Guyana.

The manual was put together by a team of four consultants, including a coastal engineering specialist; a geotechnical specialist; and an engineering specialist. These consultants would have spent time in Guyana interacting with a number of agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD); and Central Housing and Planning Authority.

So far, the manual is a 14 chapter document and is still being refined. Focus areas in the document included, integrated planning for sea and river defence works in Guyana; the physical site conditions and data collection issues; and natural flood protection systems along Guyana’s oceanic coast and river banks and their relevance to the shore zone management process.

Today’s workshop primarily saw the participation of MPI employees across the different agencies. The workshop will continue tomorrow, December 9, 2015, and will touch on a number of areas, including design of coastal flood protection structures; design of river flood protection structures; and the economics and feasibility of sea defence.