We need to reinvent the city of Georgetown

Dear Editor,

It is no secret that our once beloved city of Georgetown has become a place that we are not proud of. The challenges we face as a city are really about the security of the environment, the sustainable development of the city and the wellbeing of citizens. Indeed, many refer to the city as the garbage city – a position which we at the council do not subscribe to. In fact, we are of the view that, such degrading utterances about the city encourage a particular negative public perception, and consequent attitude towards it. Some citizens would say, “It’s the garbage city why bother to hope for anything different?” Others would just litter their parapets becoming part of the problem rather than helping with the solution.

Yet, we are faced with the very sad reality of the current embarrassing condition of the capital and wonder about its future. Some citizens have actually suggested that the authorities should relocate the capital. But that too will have its own challenges and we are not sure that similar problems as those plaguing Georgetown will not appear or present themselves, in different forms, in a new location. Therefore, it is clear that relocating the city is not necessarily the most appropriate solution to the problems we face as a city.

Reflecting on it, we believe that the city is the solution to extant environmental problems that threaten its very future. All of us can work together to secure and reinvent the future of the city. Here are a few ways:

First, we had suggested in other communications that there is urgent need for inter-disciplinary teams to work together to allow innovation and creativity, and to enforce certain rules and regulations in the capital. For example, the Mayor and City Council, Central Housing and Planning, GWI, Fire Department, Ministry of Health, Environmental Protection Agency and Ministry of Works should have an institutionalized system which will allow them to communicate, and share information and ideas on activities, events and incidents in the city. This could reduce duplication of certain tasks and save money and other resources. This means more money would be available to the city for its development.

Second, citizens need to reduce consumption and waste. The four Rs – Refuse, Recycle, Reuse and Respect – are vital to decrease demand for more resources and a reduction in waste. This period of our history tells a great story about our advances in technology. It also encourages people to go through the cycle of consumption and disposal in a seemingly endless way. Being part of the global village facilitated by technology, Guyana and its capital are influenced by this pattern of consumption and waste.

Speaking specifically about waste, Georgetown has inadequate appropriate infrastructure and an extremely limited approach to deal with the types of waste – plastic, other non-biodegradable materials and e-waste – generated by new patterns of consumption.

This then affects our ability to manage our solid waste in a way that would allow us to recover resources and reduce our demand for more materials and more products.  What we need is adequate solid waste management infrastructure and an integrated approach to it. One landfill site, seven miles from Georgetown, dealing with the abundance of waste from the city and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils is very limited. Looking to the future, we need to consider recycling plants, composting on a large scale for organic fertilizers, the manufacture of animal foods and incineration.

Third, as a city, we need to shift from a CO2 economy to a renewable energy one. For this we can look at the areas of public transportation. Numerous minibuses, cars and other vehicles are operating on our roadways. Apart from the emissions they also contribute to heavy traffic congestion resulting in additional environmental challenges, particularly in the central commercial areas of Georgetown.

Perhaps, the competent authorities need to consider offering incentives to encourage people to cycle to work and other places in the city. Perhaps, too, it is time for the authorities to think about larger and more efficient modes of public transportation instead of registering numerous minibuses.

Again, we depend on fossil fuels to provide electricity and other forms of energy. However, Guyana is a place with plenty of rich sunshine, wind and water. Where are the solar systems in the city? Hardly anywhere in the capital. Instead we have individuals owning their own generators adding to the pollution and noise. In Georgetown, we can begin installing solar panels in our schools, which do not require a substantial amount of electricity. At night there is almost zero demand for electricity in those school buildings. This leads to a wider point on managing the flow of materials and resource recovery in a sustainable way in the city.

The council and other authorities must manage materials and goods coming through the city, for construction or other purposes. It takes trucks and heavy vehicles to transport such materials and other goods. Fuel and emissions remain serious problems. More, if one calculates the thousands of miles the goods and materials travel from their place of origin, one can get a sense of the real cost and the pollution taking place in the city.

Then we need to recover materials in the construction industry. Too many buildings are being demolished. In some cases, insipid concrete boxes with windows are substituted for beautiful wooden structures. Some contractors are importing stones and other materials for building purposes. Again, think about the cost and the amount of fuel required to ship those materials to Guyana. Also, think about how such practices are affecting the local manufacturing industry. We feel that instead of demolishing existing buildings they should be integrated with new ones. Again, building contractors should try as far as practicable to use our local wood and other materials. In that way citizens save on materials and money. That can help with the sustainable development of the city.

Also, we need to begin to rethink the way we design buildings, particularly in circumstances where climate change and global warming are causing unprecedented environmental   challenges for communities. In Georgetown, buildings can be designed to benefit from the natural flow of air, instead of adding air conditioning units, which put additional demand on Guyana Power and Light and for more fossil fuel.

Finally, the city needs a good public space network. This will allow its environment to breathe and be healthy. Public spaces can help citizens to reflect on the value of the environment and their role to preserve and protect it. Open spaces can encourage citizens to walk and ride, to become involved in physical activities and work together appreciate the environment. We all are well aware of the challenges facing Georgetown. They are talking points for many citizens. However, in every challenge there is an opportunity. Let us move forward with the solutions to reinvent the future of our beloved city of Georgetown.

Yours faithfully,
Royston King
Public Relations Officer
Mayor and City Council

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