Residents living on the embankment along Lamaha Street, between Parade Street and Vlissengen Road are continuing the exodus from the area as a relocation deadline looms.
Stabroek News visited the area on Tuesday and spoke to a few residents who expressed mixed feelings about moving. Some residents noted that they have resided on the embankment for most of their lives and many have been engaged in farming, among other economic activities to generate an income. One resident said that he had planted a number of fruit trees and vegetables and sold his produce at the market to earn an income. He said, however, since he has to comply with the orders of the authorities he is willing to restart his main means of survival which is farming.
The residents met with President Bharrat Jagdeo last year, as well as officials from the Ministry of Housing and Water during the month of September last year, to discuss their relocation. The relocation is to make way for a Guyana Power and Light transmission line.
According to a document seen by this reporter, the residents agreed to relocate by the 28th February, 2009 and they were offered financial assistance in the sum of $100,000 to facilitate their relocation. Half of this sum of money was paid to the residents from September 28 last while the remainder will be paid two weeks after they would have occupied the free house lots allocated to them.
The house lots are located in the communities of Westminster and Reutch Dorzee which are sections of the housing scheme of Parfait Harmonie on the West Bank of Demerara. A few other families have relocated to housing schemes on the East Coast and East Bank of Demerara and residents who had applied and paid sums of monies for house lots over the years have been refunded such payments.
On Tuesday, trucks were transporting building materials and other belongings of the residents and Stabroek News understands this assistance has been made possible by the Ministry of Public Works.
Meanwhile, the relocating residents have expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which they are being treated by the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI). Employees of the water utility have been disconnecting the water supplied to the area and the residents believe that this exercise should have commenced only after they relocate from the embankment. While there, this newspaper spoke to an employee of GWI and he indicated that while he understands the plight of the residents, there was nothing he could have done since he was undertaking the duties assigned to him. The residents are contending that since they have another three weeks more on the embankment the water company should be lenient with them instead of disconnecting the water now. A few persons have paid their water bills while some said they cannot afford to pay as a result of the relocation. GWI recently commenced a disconnection campaign whereby customers who are defaulting in the payment of water bills would be disconnected.
Another matter of concern for the residents is the poor infrastructure of the communities they intend to move to and they are calling on the water utility to provide an adequate service. One resident said that he has erected a small structure for himself and his family of three, but laments the unavailability of water and he added that many persons have resorted to using water from nearby trenches in the area.
Other residents expressed similar sentiments and a few parents said they have made arrangements with relatives and friends around the city to keep their children until the situation is remedied. One such resident is Doreen Singh who said that, while she is happy to move, she is of the opinion that water supplied by GWI should be made available at her new home since many families have already moved into the area and pipelines have already been laid. According to her, she along with her neighbours on the embankment began relocating since before Christmas last year and they have been waiting on the rains to ease since the area is easily flooded when this occurs.
Two senior citizens, who said they have resided on the embankment for over thirty years, expressed reluctance about relocating but said that they will comply with the orders of the relevant authorities.
They also expressed concern about the lack of water at their intended place of residence at Westminster. Further, they complained that the pension which they receive cannot compensate for the rising cost of living mainly the cost for transportation to and from the area.
As such, they are calling on the government to put measures in place whereby senior citizens can be allowed to travel without the “headache” of having to find extra money. Over the years relocation has been a back and forth issue between the residents of the Lamaha Street embankment and the government.