Lethem is not ready for the opening of the Takutu Bridge

Dear Editor,
Anyone who happens to pass near to the Takutu Bridge on the Guyana side, will see a hive of construction activity ongoing. This construction is the completion of the access road from the bridge to the multi-purpose complex that will house the relevant government agencies. This work is being undertaken by the Brazilian army which also undertook part of the construction of the Takutu Bridge.

What is most worrying is that while the Brazilians are moving steadfastly towards completing their part of the agreement in the construction of the Takutu Bridge, it seems that our government has stagnated in their responsibility of having Lethem prepared for its opening.

Very little is being seen in terms of any infrastructural work to develop Lethem. The roads are in a most deplorable condition, construction work on the multi-purpose complex that is to house our government agencies ceased about five months ago and the building is not yet complete, the construction stopped on the hyped modern hospital that was being built almost a year ago and no one seems to know when it will resume, the Lethem Power Company still only offers 18 hrs of electricity per day and blackouts have once again become a daily feature.

With all of this basic infrastructure still not in place, how can Lethem be ready for the expected influx of people with the opening of the bridge?

Every week chartered planes arrive in Lethem from Georgetown with various government officials ranging from ministers to senior army and police personnel to officers from the GRA. They all go and visit the bridge, some even requesting special flyovers. I am certain that they must have noted the poor infrastructure that exists in Lethem. Yet nothing seems to be happening to start the process of developing it to be on par with our neighbours, Bon Fim.

The roads around Lethem and to the Takutu Bridge are a nightmare. Drivers have been heard to say that the worst tract of road from Georgetown to Lethem is when you arrive in Lethem. The holes and craters that extend across the roads are virtually impossible to avoid. These roads deteriorated during the rainy season. But it is now almost two months since the rainy season ended and Lethem is once again a dust bowl.
Yet nothing has been done to fix the roads. When will these repairs come? After the bridge has been opened and the visitors to Lethem complain about the quality of the roads? Where is our vision and proactive thinking? Lethem should have already had paved roads.

The access road that is being built by the Brazilians is moving so quickly that it’s possible that it will be ready within the next few weeks. When this road is done, what’s next? One would assume that it would be the official opening of the bridge. But how can this be if our multi-purpose building is not yet finished and in operation? Unless our government intends that we should sit and wait until this building is completed before the bridge is opened.

This would most likely put us into the new year. What a shame that would be! Imagine that construction on this building commenced almost simultaneously, or possibly before the Brazilian army started construction of the bridge.
For a few months, the Guyana side of the Takutu bridge had access to 24-hour electricity. This was because the bridge engineers needed to complete work on the Guyana side. After this was completed the electricity network was dismantled and the bridge has been in darkness ever since.

Once again, when will this work be done? And what about the rest of Lethem that only experiences 18 hours of electricity?
When will this most important and vital utility be upgraded to ensure that it’s sufficient for the expected influx of people and cargo? Another worrying sign is that the present generators supplying Lethem seem to be malfunctioning regularly as daily blackouts have once again become a regular feature.

Construction of the new Lethem Hospital came to a halt since early in the year. No one knows the reason for this, but it seems so long ago that part of the buildings are becoming overgrown with bush. Yet our government ministers come to Lethem and gush about this modern hospital. None make note of the fact that work has stopped. As it is at present, no one seems to know when/if this building will be completed.
During September, Amerindian Heritage Month, Lethem was graced with the presence of two government ministers, those of Public Works and Local Govern-ment. During their speeches they alluded to the importance of the Takutu Bridge to the residents of Lethem and indeed Guyana. But none made note of the amount of work that still needs to be done to have Lethem ready for the impact of the bridge, or indeed divulge some of the plans that are in place to develop Lethem’s infrastructure.

The Minister of Public Works even went on to state that the bridge would be open “soon” and that they were expecting the Brazilian President along with the Guyanese President to commission it.

If that is the case, then it would be a most momentous occasion for Lethem. But are we ready for such a grand occasion? And what are our local leaders doing to ensure that Lethem is ready to welcome our illustrious guests?
It would be most embarrassing to Lethem and Guyana if the town is portrayed to mainstream Brazil (because there will most likely be TV personnel from the main cities in Brazil) in its present state.

The media are urged to come and visit Lethem and see the amount of work that needs to be done to make it ready for the opening of the Takutu Bridge.

It is time that some amount of pressure be put on our government to start putting things in place to ensure that Guyana is not portrayed in a negative light when the world beams in on Lethem for the opening of the bridge.
Yours faithfully,
M Emile

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