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CLIMATE CHANGE: Dr. Singh talks relocation from Guyana’s coastland

Waves caused by spring tides tower the seawalls on the West Coast Demerara (Guyana Times Photograph)

Cognisant that Guyana’s coastland is highly vulnerable to the threats of climate change, global warming and rising sea levels, adopting a posture that would see wholesale removal of families and activities from along Guyana’s coastland is not a trivial matter. This is according to Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh who said that such a move will be complicated and costly.

“The reality is that a lot of economic activities are located on the coast and you know, including a lot of our lands which we use for agriculture and so on. So moving away from the coast in a wholesale manner is not by any stretch of the imagination a simple or trivial thing,” the Guyanese Finance Minister told the press on Wednesday.

Dr. Singh was asked to comment on the recently released report from the World Bank that spoke to Guyana’s vulnerability and the need for the country to take steps to slow the impact. The bank released a report titled ‘360-degrees prepare the Caribbean for new generation of shocks.’

According to the report, Guyana is among countries with have significant investment needs for coastal protection, driven by maintenance costs as much as new investments.

It notes that in the absence of appropriate funding and asset management systems for adequately maintaining coastal protection infrastructure, governments should consider alternative strategies, including natural barriers and managed relocation.

“Making relocation a strategic option that leaves people, communities, and the environment better off poses significant challenges for coordinating scientific inputs and government support,” it added.

Minister Singh said this is not the first time the concern is raised and it is also not new to those occupying lands in the coastal regions on Guyana. However, he noted that Guyana has been doing its part to protect its coastland and the activities which take place along that belt.

He stressed on the works done in years gone by and the plans for the coming years but was quick to point out the vast amount of activities that take place on Guyana’s coastland and the percentage of the population dwelling along therein.

“The coast comprises the vast majority of Guyana’s population, the vast majority of Guyana’s economic activities, the vast majority of Guyana’s administrative structures… our parliament, institutions, corporate headquarters and so on. So like I said, moving away from the coast in a wholesale manner is going to be prohibitively costly and complicated” Dr. Ashni Singh told the press.

For that reason, the Minister explained, that Guyana has been addressing the issues in multiple ways. He alluded to continued advocacy by Guyana on the question of climate change, addressing infrastructural works and also ensuring water management along the coast and even on high lands.