No major breaches of river and sea defence, but major erosions in some areas

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The Ministry of Public Infrastructure Monday said its Sea and River Defence Department is currently assessing the impacts of the spring tides on the sea and river defence infrastructure and affected communities in various locations along the coast.

Chief Sea and River Defence Officer, Mr. Kevin Samad, said technical teams from the various Sea Defence District Offices have been monitoring vulnerable stretches of defence structures impacted by the spring tide and measures are being taken to minimise flood impacts where this is achievable in the immediate circumstances.

The spring tide, which commenced on September 26 will be in effect until October 2. It is one of the highest tides recorded for this year.

Based on the published tide tables, high tide levels in excess of 3.2m above Chart Datum were experienced, with a maximum high tide level of 3.36m above Chart Datum on September 29, 2019. The next high tide will be at 5:18 P.M with the level expected to be 3.32 metre.

Based on a report from the Sea and River Defence Department, no major breaches of the sea and river defences have been reported.

Sections of the sea defence embankment along the Mahaicony shoreline, between Danzigt and Fairfield, which is currently being impacted by major erosion of the foreshore and depletion of the mangrove fringe is being looked at.

Areas impacted by overtopping include, Cullen and Onderneeming on the Essequibo Coast; Cane Garden, Cane Field, Elizabeth Ann, Waterloo, Maryville, Retrieve and Blenheim on the island of Leguan; Zeelandia, Maria Pleasure, Belle Plaine, Sans Souci, and Moorfarm on the island of Wakenaam; Parika, Den Amstel, Anna Catherina, Hague, and Utivlugt on the West Coast of Demerara; New Hope, Good Success, Friendship and Garden of Eden on the East Bank of Demerara; Helena along the Mahaica River; and New Amsterdam, Sheet Anchor and Wellington Park in Region 6.

At Mahaicony, significant stretches of earthen embankment have been subjected to severe erosion and overtopping due to the exceptional natural erosion of the foreshore and the depletion of the system of mangrove.

The critical condition of the shoreline has escalated due to the impacts of the current spring tide. Major breaches have occurred releasing salt water into the adjacent Bellamy Canal and agriculture lands. The Ministry has been executing emergency works at this location since March, 2019 to reinstate and protect compromised sections of embankments.

With regard to the measures being taken to minimise the impacts of the current spring tide, the Chief Sea and River Defence Officer indicated the Sea and River Defence, Force Account Units have been working to heighten vulnerable sections of earthen embankment and reinforce stretches of revetment and sea walls to minimise the extent of overtopping.

Additionally, contractors have been engaged to reinforce and heighten revetments and desilt drainage canals that function to contain overtopping discharge, as well as community drains. The Sea and River Defence Department will be programming major rehabilitation and reconstruction interventions to strengthen the flood protection infrastructure in all impacted areas.

In keeping with the Ministry’s Sea and River Defence Sector Policy, a holistic upgrading of the Coastal Flood Protection System is progressively being undertaken to achieve an acceptable level of flood resilience against the rise in sea level and the effects of climate change.

Strategic measures will be required at a national level to reduce flood vulnerability through engineered interventions, strategic land use planning and a risk-based approach to shore zone management, the Ministry stated.

According to the Chief Sea and River Defence Officer a formidable constraint has been limited funding to implement the projects envisaged.

Nationally allocated financing for the sector needs to be increased considerably to advance the strategic approach, the Ministry stated.

Currently, the Ministry is implementing a Capacity Building Programme under the Caribbean Development Bank financed Sea and River Defence Resilience Project. The programme focuses on boosting the Ministry’s capacity to monitor and manage shoreline change which will provide the basis for better understanding the coastal dynamics and aid in a more scientific approach to shore zone management.

The Ministry sought to assure that the Sea and River Defence Department will continue to actively pursue the required measures to mitigate the impacts on flooding on coastal communities.

Residents of low-lying coastal communities are advised to take the needed precautions during the remainder of the spring tide period.

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