West Berbice’s electricity woes have been resolved somewhat, but the water situation continued to be troublesome and residents of Cotton Tree took to the streets yesterday, after not receiving supplies for over two weeks.
Men and women came out of their homes around 10 am with their empty buckets and displayed placards to show their disgust over the situation.
Some of the placards read: “Pressy, when you will be in Guyana for your pickney? Awe a suffa,” “No wata [water], no light…” and “What DSM water system means; Donkey Service Man…”
They also said that they have to use donkey carts and go a few villages away to access water for household chores and brought the cart out during the protest.
Some of the protestors even grabbed a few baskets from a vegetables van and commented that their situation was akin to “having water in basket…”
Contacted, Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Inc (GWI) Karan Singh told this newspaper that the problem was due to the Guyana Power & Light not providing sufficient voltage to power the pumps.
Chairman of Region Five, Harrinarine Baldeo told this newspaper that he was aware that the problem was affecting residents from Woodley Park to Cotton Tree.
He said those residents have to access water from the GWI’s pump at Number Seven Village and he understood their suffering and could not blame them for protesting.
According to him, a bigger pump was expected to be sent yesterday afternoon from Georgetown to be installed at Number Seven and it is hoped that the situation would improve from today.
He pointed out too that residents of the Bath Settlement had been without water for a few days because a cable from the pump in that village had been cut. That problem, he said, was rectified on Tuesday and residents are now benefiting from the service.
This newspaper spoke to residents of Bath Settlement and they confirmed that they have indeed started to get water again. They said even though it is barely trickling through the pipes they are still “thankful because it better than not having any at all. But we hope we can start getting the full pressure soon.”
During the protest, some of the women told this newspaper that they have children attending the Cotton Tree Primary and Nursery Schools and they have not been able to send them because they have no water to “make tea and cook.”
They also said that they need water to wash and bathe and they are finding it very hard to get a little to use for those purposes. They said they have tanks but they were unable to fill them because “the water is not running… we only have to pray that the rain would fall.”
Some of the women said too that the schools are without water and because of that, their children have become sick. According to a young mother, she took her child to the doctor and the child was diagnosed with a stomach virus.
The women said that teachers from the school contacted officials from the Department of Education about the water problem and “they did nothing except to say that the schools need to go on.” Some parents, they said took it upon themselves to provide a little water to the schools for the children’s benefit.
An elderly woman told this newspaper that she had planned a religions function but has had to postpone it because she did not have water to clean her house.
A cane-harvester who had just returned from the backdam also joined the protest. He said he was frustrated with the situation and when he was preparing for work around 4:30 am on Sunday, he decided to phone a top member of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union.
He told the member that if they do not get back the water they would not work and the member then asked him “if me can’t buy a Tuff tank…”
Dhanan Narayan, the owner of a gas station at Cotton Tree who organized the protest, said that the pump at Number 7 Village is supposed to supply water to them but they have not gotten any for the last two weeks. He said even when the electricity is on the water would still be off. He said he called Singh several times to complain about the situation but he had avoided his calls.
Narayan said too that from Ithaca to Bush Lot, a seven-mile distance, there are 11 pumps and yet residents have to be suffering from water shortages.
On Monday, workers of the Blairmont Estate harvesting gang and the Fort Wellington Hospital protested over the lack of electricity and water as they could not work without those commodities. They had promised that they would not return to work unless the problem was resolved.
The following day, the electricity situation had been stabilized and the workers were back on their jobs even though the water problem continued. A generator at the Fort Wellington Hospital, which had been down for about eight months and was renovated only last week had again collapsed.
Regional officials had summoned the technician and this newspaper was there when he arrived to fix the generator. He discovered that the starter and alternator needed to be replaced and was given the go-ahead to do so. However, up to yesterday when this newspaper checked, the generator had still not been fixed and the nurses continue to work with flambeaux (bottle lamps) and flashlights during the blackouts.
They said that they had been advised to turn away patients from the gate because of the darkness. However, the Blairmont Estate ambulance had taken a pregnant woman who was in an advanced stage of labour and the nurses said they could not turn her away. An episiotomy also had to be performed and sutured in the darkness.
The nurses said even in the day the hospital is dark during the blackouts and they have been stuck by needles as a result. They also said that they are forced to send patients to the Mahaicony Hospital instead but this does not go down well with the relatives and “we [nurses] would come in for a good busing.”
Further they told this newspaper, “There is only one guard at the gate and when we are in here in the darkness we are afraid to leave the doors open.”
So far, the nurses have had to refuse treating a patient who suffered from a laceration to the scalp as well as pregnant mothers who were sent to the Mahaicony Hospital after the nurses examined them.
Baldeo, who confirmed that the generator has been sent to be repaired, told this newspaper that the region could not afford to buy a new generator at the moment.