Residents of Glasgow, East Berbice are fearful that soon “the sea would wash away into the village” and force them to abandon their land and in response, the Region Six administration says that it would make a recommendation for the critical sea defence work to continue.
It also said that it was awaiting the conclusion of the budget deliberations to begin badly-needed maintenance work on the key road in the village.
During a visit to the village last week residents told Stabroek News that the distance from the sea to the road is now only about 15 feet. Erosion in the area has been a longstanding problem. They recalled that the sea started to erode defences several years ago and that the previous government had relocated houses that were on the same side of the river, to a scheme at Heathburn.
They said that the then government had said that there was not enough money to repair the sea defence and that moving the residents would have been a better option.
According to them, “when the houses were built residents had enough land in the backyard to plant garden. But after the river started to erode the residents’ steps were almost in the river.”
They said too that a number of big trees that protected the shorelines just “break away.”
They pointed out that over two years ago government had done revetment works along a section of the sea defence which was not as critical as their area.
The materials and equipment that remained in area to complete the project were removed around mid last year. Residents said when they inquired they were told that the items would have to be taken to Essequibo.
Government officials promised that they would return but residents are still waiting. On two occasions an engineer visited the area to do assessments of the sea defence.
Residents are eager for the project to start again but said that the last revetment was done with “mud and stones and we don’t want that; we want it with better materials that would last a long time.”
According to them, marine traffic that traverses at a fast rate causes the water to splash against the river banks and recently a huge piece of the shoreline was washed into the river.
A woman, Kaneeza Khan said she has been living at Glasgow for 39 years and she is “afraid of the river because daily we getting land erosion. A few mornings more the river would erode and reach the road; then look what gon happen.”
The woman pointed out that “when I married and come to live here the land was quite out (from) the river and now look how close it is.” She also showed this newspaper a pole in the river and said a wharf once stood there.
She is afraid that during the spring tide in August there would be a serious crisis when the water splashes into the village.
Residents said that the sea water is “undermining the road and it gat huge potholes all over.” This newspaper observed drivers trying to avoid the potholes by driving onto residents’ bridges and driveways.
Some residents have placed planks and bricks on the bridges to avoid the vehicles driving there as they are causing that to be damaged as well.
Drivers said they are “paying road service and can’t even get proper use of the road. People who do not know the road are in danger.” A woman said one night she heard a loud impact and when she looked out a “strange” driver had crashed into an electricity pole.
The residents charge that “government spends a lot of money only to do top surface and within a month or two the road deteriorate again.”
They are calling for a new road to be built as it is the main access for residents, farmers as well workers and for the bauxite company, Guysuco and Guyoil.
President of the East Bank Berbice Hire Car Association, Maxwell Semple also agreed that “repairing the road is a waste of taxpayers’ money. It seems as though we are the least considered residents in Berbice – nobody seems to care about us.”
He called on the authorities to look into the issues affecting the residents and vowed that they would have a major demonstration on the streets.
Semple had told this newspaper last week that he had spoken to a regional official who said that the region only had $2M to “patch the road. I asked him how often they would patch and he said that a recommendation would be made to Central Government to get a proper road.”
Further he pointed out that the official said that the road would be included in the national budget but said he has not heard anything about the road in the budget.
Semple said that the deplorable condition of the road is costing drivers a lot of money to repair their vehicles and it is not fair. He said many protests have been organized in the past and to appease the drivers, the regional officials would “just patch the road…”
On Monday Semple, along with other drivers and concerned residents held another protest in East Berbice from 9 am to 11 am. At around 11:15 am they led a motorcade from Edinburgh Village to the Regional Office at Vryman’s Erven, New Amsterdam where they continued their demonstration.
The drivers displayed placards some of which read, “we need better road,” “we don’t want any chip-seal” and “we need to be treated the same way as the residents on the Corentyne.”
Semple told this newspaper that Regional Chairman, Zulfikar Mustapha had been in a meeting and that Community Relations Officer; Fizal Jafarally held a dialogue with him and a few other members of the association.
Further Semple pointed out that a section of the access bridge at Edinburgh has started to sink and that the concrete structures below that support the bridge are also broken. He deemed it a “disaster waiting to happen” and called for it to be fixed urgently.
Contacted, Regional Chairman, Zulfikar Mustapha told SN that maintenance work would be carried out on the road but they are waiting on the budget debate to conclude before they can proceed.
He said too because of the condition of the road, a substantial amount of money would be needed to rebuild it. The money would have to be sourced from Central Government.
He is aware of the condition of the bridge at Edinburgh and that too would be fixed shortly. With regards to the sea defence, the chairman said that the Ministry of Public Works is responsible for that project. He said the ministry had done a part of the project in 2007 and that they would make a recommendation for the work to continue.