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The coast of Guyana is where most Guyanese live. Guyana’s coast is below sea level and the sea continues to rise year after year. Our seawall, which is manmade, helps in warding off the Atlantic waters from rushing onto shores and wreaking havoc in our lives. As essential as the seawall is to Guyanese safety and livelihood is the mangrove.
The mangrove trees we see on the seashores are nature’s blessings. They serve as soil reinforcement. There was once a time, due to the absence of knowledge it is being supposed, Guyanese were chopping down mangrove trees unaware or uncaring about their function in sea defence, soil management, the environment, and the dire implications for our lives in uprooting them. According to the National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute (NAREI), “Mangroves contribute substantially to sea defence in Guyana by damping wave action and reducing wave energy, trapping sediments and stabilising shoreline substrates, while playing an important role in carbon sequestration.”
It was during the People’s Progressive Party/Civic government NAREI engaged in a national project to replant mangroves. There were big billboards across the coast educating Guyanese about the project and asking Guyanese to do their part in maintaining the mangroves. That project, which ran from 2010-2013, was called Guyana Mangrove Restoration Project. Guyana could boast that through this project about 350 acres (142 hectares) of mangrove forest was restored.
To hear in 2021 that Tristar Incorporated, a business in Region Three, is cutting down the mangroves to make way for their business is unfortunate. Even more unfortunate is the reported statement by Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill that though the mangroves are important, development must not be stymied by them. It begs the question whether decisions are made by the government after careful thought or whether the government cares about the preservation of Guyana’s coast.
Climate Change is destroying lives as we know it and disrupting the normal evolution of nature. The world is witnessing unprecedented weather patterns and natural disasters. Guyana is not isolated or insulated and is too combating Climate Change. High tides continue to wreak havoc, flooding places and destroying agriculture, livestock, businesses and properties. Some portions of Guyana’s coast are said to be sitting from 19.7 inches (0.5 meter) to 39.4 inches (1metre) below sea level. Minister Edghill’s statement must have people scratching their heads. He is creating concern that development is more important than the environment and if the environment has to be a causality of development that is all well and good.
It is being ignored that Guyanese are not separate and apart from the environment and development should not come at the expense of the environment and Guyanese. Whether the government acts to stop the cutting down of the mangrove trees and ensure they are replaced, enough public pressure should be applied to the business to stop the practice and have those trees replanted. There should be a way to have business function without putting our soil and lives at risk. That way must be found.