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OPINION: National ‘sweep-up’ in Georgetown ignores the drainage problem

Last Updated on Tuesday, 5 September 2023, 8:09 by Writer

Uncollected bags of garbage and the cardboard ‘mattresses’ that are used by street dwellers. Those remained there throughout Monday.

The much-vaunted national clean-up turned out to be a disgraceful damp squib for many parts of Georgetown where the citizenry, businessowners and visitors alike cry out for that elusive long-lasting solution to the sanitation and drainage problems.

The exercise on September 2, 2023 demonstrated either a cosmetic sweep-up, a failed experiment, dismally poor implementation or yet another photo opportunity.

The fact that yet another clean-up in Georgetown was conducted is indicative of the fact that the local and central government authorities have not found a permanent and lasting solution.

Many drains and alleyways remained clogged with dried and wet silt, commercial waste and vegetation. Look no further than around Fogarty’s, Guyana Stores, Hinck Street, Regent Street among others. Alleyways remained clogged with commercial waste, trees and vines, all confirming that nothing was done during the clean-up to bring about a near permanent solution to flooding.

The clean-up of Main Street was actually incomplete as the pieces of cardboard used by vagrants to sleep on the chairs are still there. Added to them are huge garbage bags of waste near a number of overflowing garbage bins.

Bourda Cemetery, Regent Street.

In fact, despite days of intense sunshine, a number of drains are clogged, stagnant and smelly. Others have dried, leaving behind moss and silt.

City Hall, which is ostensibly responsible for waste management (collection and disposal) in Georgetown did not even remove the piles of garbage just beyond both fences on Regent Street and Avenue of the Republic. The pile of garbage in front of the old Bourda Cemetery gate certainly could not have reappeared in a matter of hours on Sunday night if it was removed. Surely, the old freezer tells the tale of not only City Hall’s perpetual ineptitude but the colossal gimmickry that was the National Cleanup.

These observations beg the logical question of whether there was a post ‘clean-up’ physical inspection with the aim of conducting an assessment and diagnosis to inform follow-up action.

The fallen bridge rail at Avenue of the Republic and Robb Street

This yet another soft-eyed photo-opportunity, in reality, did nothing to address the deeply rooted problems of waste disposal, waste collection and flooding. The focus should have been a concerted effort to clear the drains, trenches, canals and alleyways of solid waste, silt and mud.

If anyone doubts this factual account of Georgetown after the mock clean-up, let there be 15 minutes of intense rainfall and citizens of Georgetown, visitors and businesses will have to endure a serious flood.

There is no room to cast partisan blame on City Hall or central government.

Indeed, Georgetown has become a life sore of social and physical decay because over the years, people have been manipulated under the guise of sympathy and support for the masses.

Look no further than the flood-prone Plaisance-UG bus park and the fallen bridge rail on Robb Street and Avenue of the Republic, both a stone’s throw from the seat of the municipal government. That rail collapsed or was broken off almost three months ago. Daily, it continues its slow descent into the Avenue of Republic canal.

A clogged drain at the St George’s Cathedral Roundabout

Assuming that the authorities grade themselves charitably even with an inaccurate and undeserved ‘C’ for last Sunday’s cleanup in Georgetown, they should devise a maintenance programme backed up by stiff enforcement of litter laws.

Manholes over drains are uncovered for weeks and months, posing a threat to life and limb. Foreign and local food vendors emerge late afternoons and ply their trade during the dark hours, most likely without inspection by food inspectors to ensure they are certified. Street dwellers, too, are contributing to poor sanitation as they often eat the free food provided by donors and dump the boxes on the streets. They are often seen rummaging garbage bins and leaving the waste strewn all around. Garbage bins on many city streets are not collected for days so eventually they overflow and become huge piles for dogs, rats and cockroaches to feast. There is no coordination, in most cases, between the workers who seldom clean canals and workers who should collect the waste. The garbage is, therefore, left for weeks and eventually washes or blows back into the drains or trenches. Businesses, also, pay drug addicts to take away garbage from their premises. The businesses do not care whether the addicts empty the bins on sidewalks or vacant lots.

Citizens must be partly blamed for the State of Georgetown as they dump their waste on the streets while walking to or from vehicles. Others simply eat and drink and rest the empty containers on the roads or pavements.

A heavily silted drain outside the Guyana Post Office Corporation, Robb Street.

Sadly, enforcement against littering and dumping are for the most part not enforced. There is simply no will to do anything to make people feel the full force of the law. Those who obey the law and dispose their garbage in bins, as stated above, soon have to content with uncollected garbage bins.

Rather than embark on another showpiece exercise styled a National Clean-up, the local and central government, private sector and citizens should map a scientifically-driven strategy to clean all drainage structures above and underground. Advantage should be taken of the prolonged dry spell to do this as it should be easier to locate the clogged structures, extract or flush out the waste. Surely, there must be maps of the drainage networks in Georgetown.

The office-bound planners and councillors need to get out of their chairs and walk (not ride or drive) the city and inspect the drainage structures as part of a pre-cleansing assessment.

Though loads of garbage have been carted off from various areas of Georgetown, the overall outcome can best be characterised as shining rotted wood with the best floor polish.

Time to stop the sweeping and do some digging!

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September 2023