Modern legislation passed to improve Guyana’s sea, river defences

Recognizing the need for legislation that manages Guyana’s mitigation and adaptation efforts against rising sea levels, the National Assembly on Friday passed the comprehensive Sea and River Defence Bill.

The bill serves as an updated and consolidated form of two existing pieces of legislation found in Chapter 64:01 and 64:02 of the Laws of Guyana.

Minister of Public Works, Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill during the debate on the bill in the National Assembly on Friday

Championing the bill during the 82nd Sitting of the Twelfth Parliament, Minister of Public Works Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill, MP, highlighted that the bill seeks expand the current legislation.

“The objective of this bill is not to rewrite the legislation or to introduce major policy changes but to update and refine the legislation to meet current and future challenges,” Minister Edghill explained.

The minister pointed out that the bill will place specific focus on managing floods, since the Low Coastal Plain remains vulnerable to the rising sea levels caused by climate change.

“This bill will introduce a system of flood management planning to ensure all defenses are properly identified, designed, and maintained, while at the same time enhancing public participation and consultation,” he said.

Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Hon. Deodat Indar makes a point during the debates on Friday

Lending support to the bill, Minister within the Ministry of Public Works Hon. Deodat Indar, MP, pointed out that the legislation is necessary for the continued investment into sea and river defenses.

“For us, on this side of the house, sea defense is a major part of the infrastructure of the country. River defense is major part of the infrastructure,” Minister Indar highlighted.

Expounding on the need for robust sea defences for agricultural development, Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, MP, said that government has identified the issues farmers have faced owing to flooding. He was adamant that this legislation supports the resolution to the problem.

“Over 1,000 acres of rice adjacent to the sea defence was flooded in 2019, and has not been cultivated since…this is how we operate. We identify, we analyze, and we fix the problem,” he highlighted.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha addressing the National Assembly on Friday

“This bill lays the groundwork for proactive [work] to fortify our coastline…the bill acknowledges the essential value of our ecosystem and the irreplaceable benefits [to come] for our environment and communities,” the Minister continued.

Since 2020, some $24 Billion were spent on sea defenses, compared to approximately $10 Billion during the 2015-2020 period under the APNUAFC Administration.

Sea defence structures are set to be upgraded this year in Bygeva, Cane Garden, Leguan, and Wakenaam, among others.