A sea defence breach at Columbia, West Mahaicony, Guyana. (Arvind Panchu photo).
GEORGETOWN, Guyana--The Ministry of Finance has approved approximately US $2.2 million to undertake emergency works on the sea defence at Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara (ECD). The sea defence was partly damaged during the spring tide from July 31 to August 4.
According to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, during the recent spring tide period of July 31, to August 4, a section of the sea defence earthen embankment at Prospect, Mahaicony, was severely eroded which resulted in the intrusion of substantial volumes of saline water into the Bellamy Canal.
There was no flooding to nearby agricultural lands because the Bellamy Canal Sluice at the Mahaica River was opened during low tide to release excess water stored in the canal.
In addition to this breach at Prospect, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure has been undertaking emergency flood protection works to restore separate breaches along the sea defence embankment between Fairfield and Dantzig, Mahaicony.
On July 6, a 125-metre section of the sea defence embankment was breached at Dantzig. This rupture is now sealed. The ministry decided to divert boulder materials stockpiled for the construction of a rock armour revetment at Prospect to the Dantzig site to seal the breached area.
In commenting on recent challenges the ministry has faced in implementing flood prevention measures in Mahaicony, Chief Sea and River Defence Officer Kevin Samad indicated that significant degradation of the natural sea defence system along a three kilometre stretch of shoreline between Fairfield and Dantzig has occurred over the last six months.
Samad explained that due to erosion and the accretion cycle characteristics of the Guyana coast, progressive movement of mud and silt from the Mahaicony foreshore has resulted in rapid depletion of the mangrove fringe, which has left several sections of the earthen embankment completely exposed to direct wave action. Although for many years the area was protected by a natural flood protection system, it has now become necessary for a resilient man-made sea defence to be constructed.
The rainy season also continues to have an adverse impact on the progress of works as several access dams are currently in deplorable states. The shortest access dam is over two kilometres long, and manoeuvring with trucks and earth-moving equipment has been restricted due to the continuing inclement weather.
Nevertheless, emergency works are ongoing and, to date, over 7,500 tons of boulders have been delivered to the Prospect/Dantzig area via barges by A and S General Contractors. The ministry also said that a 90-foot-long heavy-duty timber bridge was recently completed across the Bellamy Canal at Dantzig. The only other access bridge across the Bellamy Canal is at Fairfield, three kilometres away.
Samad said A and S General Contractors has recently been awarded a contract to construct 325 metres of a permanent rock revetment structure in the Prospect area at a sum of approximately US $775,000. This is to supplement previous emergency interventions that were implemented in the Prospect area earlier this year. The contractor has commenced supplying rock materials to execute the revetment works, with over 3,000 tons of rock armour already delivered to Prospect.
The Ministry of Public Infrastructure would like to reassure residents and farmers of the Mahaicony area that continuous efforts are being made to monitor sea defences, and interventions are being arranged to expeditiously reinforce vulnerable sections to prevent flooding.