– says efforts should be taken to defend coastal region nowIn light of the recent overtopping caused by abnormally high tides, the topic of relocating Guyana’s coastal populace to higher grounds has reignited but Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said it is unrealistic to do so now and instead, it will have to be done gradually.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo“It’s unrealistic to expect people to move [now]. So I see the move as a gradual one, people going to high ground but we can’t give up our productive assets on the coast. We have to defend them and we can defend them if we work smart and find smart solutions,” he contended.According to Jagdeo at his recent press conference, a lot of the country’s infrastructure and fertile lands are along its coastline.“Over time that could happen. We can’t pick ourselves up and go and that is why, in Georgetown, you need to focus on better drainage,” he posited.Jagdeo, a former President, pointed out that concrete drains need to be built across the country, particularly in the capital city. He suggested that revenues from the impending oil and gas sector can be used to do this.“That’s what we have to do, concrete drains in the city so you can clean the drains quickly, you can have better management of water, more pumping capability,” he noted.The Opposition Leader went on to give an example, saying that South Georgetown always floods so the level of the road there needs to be raised and concrete drains built.Floods in coastal communities caused by abnormally high tides two weeks agoAnother area he said needs to be looked at is better pumping systems in farming communities so that water can be better managed. Holland, he added, did that for centuries.“So we can’t move our people out and remember some of our most fertile lands are on the coast so you can’t give up on them and go all the way up to Coverden and [say], you know, ‘let’s give it up’,” the Opposition Leader stressed.Instead, Jagdeo posited that the country may need to look at reclaiming land offshore to build some resilient infrastructure. This, he said, has been done by a lot of countries.Nevertheless, with regards to moving to higher lands, the Opposition Leader posited that much needs to be done in order to get people to move.On this note, the Opposition Leader said that should his party – People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – win the upcoming General and Regional Elections in March next year then they will build infrastructures to develop those higher locations so that people will want to move from the coast.“[We will build a] four-lane road going to the [Soesdyke-Linden] Highway that brings you down from the Highway into Georgetown in 20 minutes because you don’t have houses along the highway, you have feeder roads coming in. That will allow people to go and live up the highway because if they have good water, school and they can get into the city in 20 minutes to work and they can drive in, then they will move up naturally,” he asserted.Furthermore, with climate change already affecting several things such as rain pattern and sea levels and also stretching traditional infrastructure, Jagdeo said Guyana needs to prepare for this.The former President had won the United Nation’s Champion of the Earth Award back in 2010 for his role in preserving the forest to combat climate change. He had initiated the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which saw Guyana being paid for preserving its forests.To this end, Jagdeo explained that part of their plan is to expand the LCDS initiative by using the resources earned from the sale of forest carbon to do a number of things. Among those is to build climate-resilient infrastructure.Pointing to the Hope Canal, Jagdeo said that the infrastructure which is located along the upper East Coast of Demerara is an excellent option for flood control and/or water management.“Since the canal was built we did not have a major flood in the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary area caused by blowing the water into the Mahaica River [from the Conservancy Dam]… We would lose sometimes up to US$20 million in a year [while we were in office] but we spent about US$16 million to build the Hope Canal but that effectively stop the flood at the back there,” he recalled.According to Jagdeo, the previous PPP Administration had a multimillion mangrove project to repopulate the coastline as a frontier. He noted that in tsunami-affected countries, the least affected areas were those with mangroves.“We did researches… So we had an entire plan to focus on all of these areas. We didn’t have the money but at least we had the plan,” he posited.Two weekends ago, several communities along Guyana’s coastline were inundated from the unprecedented high tides, which lasted days. Villages in Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) were affected by the high water.While some of those affected residents are now trying to get back to their lives and others are still grappling with floodwaters, there is yet another bout of high tides expected later this month.In anticipation of the October 26 high water, the Public Infrastructure Minister in collaboration with the other stakeholder agencies are currently undertaking emergency works to minimise the potential impact from the impending high tides.Close to 80 per cent of Guyana’s population live in its low-lying coastal regions, portions of which sit from 19.7 inches (0.5 metre) to 39.4 inches (1 metre) below sea level.This is a worrying factor since a recent report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that global warming is accelerating melting in glaciers and ice sheets from Greenland to Antarctica, and that sea levels will likely rise more than previously projected by the end of this century if carbon emissions continue to increase.According to the report, many of the 680 million people around the world living in low-lying coastal areas will experience annual flooding events by 2050 that used to occur only once a century.