Cassava rushed to drought-stricken Rupununi; opposition flays govt for water shortage

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 March 2024, 15:11 by Denis Chabrol

A section of the gathering in South Central Rupununi at the meeting with President Irfaan Ali and his delegation.

Two weeks after the opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance F0r Change (APNU+AFC) returned from an outreach to the Rupununi and raised concerns about a severe water shortage, President Irfaan Ali on Friday announced that government was rushing large quantities of cassava to the drought-stricken region.

“We brought in 500,000 pounds of cassava . It went to Deep South (Rupununi). We’re going to bring in another 500,000 pounds to go to the communities along here (South Central Rupununi)  so you can get it for your farine,” he said in response to an appeal for financial or other forms of assistance by the Toshao of Quiko Village  who told the gathering that the cassava crops had been damaged by heat and wildfires.

Dr Ali also said that hampers would be distributed to “every household.”

Councillor Tecla Spencer said animals at Meriwau Village needed more water. “The season is very, very dry and we are asking that we could request for two more catchment where we have a lot of animals in our community.” She told the government delegation that she was once again asking for a trestle for the community because a previous request was unfilled.

A Toshao from Quiko Village requested 15 black tanks “in order to store adequate water since we’re facing drought in our different communities within our region.” He also asked for a trestle to be constructed there. In response, President Ali said 25 black tanks would be provided and the distribution system would be installed within one month and linked to the newly-drilled well. ”

Residents, who spoke, punctuated their requests for various forms of assistance with praises for the People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration by providing Amerindian villages with solar panels, pig-rearing, funds from the Low Carbon Development Strategy and transportation.

A resident of Shulinab asked for two of the 30 wells to be constructed in Rupununi.

Chairman of Region Nine (Upper Takatu-Upper Essequibo), Brian Allicock, in his welcoming remarks, said he was satisfied with progress that was being made by the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) “even though this is a rough time in the region because of the water shortages all over.”  “I look at some wells, they are drying up and have dried up but GWI is looking at other means of supplying potable water to the homes that they are servicing at the moment,” he said.

A resident of Parisha, Rupununi raising questions about increased government borrowing with Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton who recently visited several Region Nine communities.

In apparent reference to the 7th to 13th March 2024 visit to numerous communities in the Rupununi by Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton and his delegation, Mr Allicock said there was no time for “negative” talk. “I don’t think any other government could do such a thing for our people like this. They might be talking negative. I know they visited  but we have to look at the positive and we are looking at the positiveness of our people’s development and not individuals,” he said.

Mr Norton promised residents of Karasabai “to put a technical team in place to advise us on the water situation” and so, if elected to government, the engineers would craft a strategy to address excess water during heavy rainfall and water shortage during the dry season.

In a statement on their visit to the Rupununi, the opposition delegation said residents there credited the then APNU+AFC administration for digging several wells and a reservoir that allowed them access to water during the dry season.” “They bemoaned the fact that the PPP government halted this process and now they are experiencing serious shortage of water and that their crop and livestock are dying.”

According to the opposition team, several villages such as Maruranau, Semonie, Quiko, Rupertee and Fairview  have not benefitted from a GY$1 billion investment in improving water supply in areas of Region Nine. APNU+AFC said, for instance, in Aishalton not only the residents but also the children have no water supply at the schools, in Maruranau the well is non-functional, in Karasabai there has
been no water supply in some sections, in Tiger Pond for over one year the residents did  not receive any water since the well is non-functional and the pump has since fallen into the well.

APNU+AFC said that from 2015 to 2020, at least 48 wells had been drilled in hinterland regions and so allowed many Indigenous communities to receive water for the first time. “To date the Guyana Water Inc. has failed to maintain, upgrade those wells and drill new ones to better serve the communities thus causing this significant shortage of water in Region #9,” the coalition said.