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Monday, February 13, 2006
Sea wall folly

At $800M per kilometre it isn't difficult to appreciate why the country's sea defences should attract the highest priority and be subject to the most rigorous protective and maintenance programme possible. Yet, in the words of the chief sea defence officer, Mr Howard at a press conference on Friday, this has clearly not been the case in relation to the stretch between the Celina Atlantic Resort, Kitty and Liliendaal. Mr Howard pointed out how the parapet outside the Celina Atlantic was now bare of grass as a result of vehicles parking on it, making it more susceptible to erosion. The same thing, he noted, is happening going east up to Liliendaal where tents are erected leaving gouges in the ground and cool down carts slice into the embankment.

Over the last two years or so, the authorities have turned a blind eye to the chaos that prevails on the embankment on the weekends particularly from the Russian embassy going up to Liliendaal. The blind eye has been turned in the name of entertainment and the `feel good' syndrome. While some have hailed it as a welcome spontaneous manifestation of the Guyanese spirit others know it is just another sign of the depressing lawlessness that we sink deeper into every day. What occurs on the seawall on those days has thus far been tolerated by the police, the sea defence unit, the traffic department, the city and the local government authorities when numerous regulations and laws are being flagrantly breached.

There is nothing wrong with Guyanese entertaining themselves but when it creates traffic chaos and begins to threaten sea defences it is time to take action. On Sunday nights, the northern most lane of the public road going east is taken over by a long line of vehicles, sometimes double-parked, and with people running back and forth across the highway while the occasional police vehicle attempts unconvincingly to maintain some type of order. The range of activities on offer has multiplied that on some occasions a ferris wheel has been positioned on the embankment. On the slope, it wouldn't be hard to imagine what kind of grounding the ferris wheel would need to be stabilised and the damage that that can cause. Not to mention the grave dangers that the children who used the ferris wheel faced. The numerous concessionaires with their heavy equipment and vehicles parked on the embankment are also a problem.

It should be recalled that the traffic on the East Coast seawall had come from farther west because of police concerns over Eve Leary's security. Thus was born this problem. Work has now been done in the area near Eve Leary and lamps installed. It is time for the East Coast crowd to be relocated there and for some sanity to be restored between Kitty and Liliendaal.

The authorities cannot afford to be cavalier about sea defences. While calamitous flooding has come from south of the wall over the last two years it musn't be forgotten that north of the wall lies an even graver and more pernicious threat. Last year's high tides that struck the West Demerara were living testimony of what lies beyond the shore and put into sharp focus all those who have been squatting on sea defence reserves and damaging them a la Kitty to Liliendaal.

Those in charge of Celina should be spoken to about finding less destructive parking for their patrons. The patch of mangroves to the east of Celina should also become the subject of a preservation programme. With the resort right up against the mangroves it is only a matter of time before they start to suffer. Each of those trees should become objects of preservation and efforts made to expand the growth. Last month we featured on our front page a telling photograph of a line of mangroves/courida protecting the Mahaicony coast. If walls had to be built we would be begging far and wide for money as things presently stand. We must preserve these plantations along the sea.

While Minister Nawbatt has recently taken up his position he must have known about these pressures on the sea defences. Why his predecessor did nothing about it is a moot point. It is now up to Mr Nawbatt and Mr Howard to act. Those who have been transgressing have had enough friendly persuasion.

Stabroek News