Tougher decisions ahead? Rising sea levels may force G/Town relocation – CDB


By Vishani Ragobeer

Rising sea levels are an increasing threat to the capital city Georgetown and Guyana’s low coastal plain and Head of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon says the country may have to consider some “tougher decisions” to counter this threat.

Guyana’s low-lying coastal plain, where most Guyanese live and work, is increasingly threatened by rising sea levels and flooding due to the phenomenon of climate change.

Dr. Leon noted that this presents a significant threat to the people living there and the economic activity possible. And so, he reasoned that long term planning has to consider the reality that Georgetown – Guyana’s business hub and main port – could be underwater.

“Guyana would have to, I think, make some tougher decisions,” the CDB President posited.

With this assertion, Dr. Leon highlighted that climate adaptation is a key focus of the Bank’s interaction with Guyana. Adaptation focuses on engaging in projects that allow Guyana to adjust its development with overarching threats such as flooding.

But what are some of the key considerations needed by Guyana as it seeks to adapt to climate change?

Head of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon

For Dr. Leon, the first consideration is how Guyana would continue to protect its coastline. He asked if investments should be made to build-out sea defence structures- a “tower of Babel- type wall”- throughout the entire coastal plain.

“… or do you say that we need to move and move quickly in moving people or start to move people in higher elevations so that even if the water could take over, you can protect part of Georgetown?” the President asked further.

These are not simple questions, the CDB Head acknowledged. In fact, he says that these are “very existential type questions”.

“… we are not yet having that type of discussion with the government but that’s the sort of longer-term planning or thinking that the government, I think, will probably need to start thinking about,” he emphasised.

Importantly, according to a recent report from the World Bank group entitled, “360° Resilience: A Guide to Prepare the Caribbean for a New Generation of Shocks,” Guyana is expected to have the second-largest average shoreline retreat by 2050.

By 2050, because of the harsh impacts of climate change, the shoreline (or coastline) in several Caribbean countries is expected to retreat or be covered by the sea at varying degrees.

When engaged on the threat of rising sea levels, Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh previously told the News Room that moving more inland, progressively, is a consideration for the government.

“Moving away from the coast in a wholesale manner is going to be prohibitively costly and complicated,” Dr. Singh pointed out, however.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali has also long touted the creation of ‘Silica City’ a new city in Guyana’s hilly sand and clay region, further inland. Last week, Housing Minister Collin Croal said that consultations are ongoing with utility companies for the establishment of the new city.

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