I am writing to express my total frustration and utter disgust over the dumpsite at Mandela Avenue that has now encroached onto the Le Repentir Cemetery. I believe its existence speaks to clear contempt and disregard for the residents of the surrounding communities.
I am a resident of North East La Penitence, and I have never seen the Le Repentir Cemetery in such a state of disrepair. As a child the cemetery was well maintained with a proper fence and regular mowing. Today, it is a miniature forest that is a sight for sore eyes, and now the dumpsite is literally in the cemetery. Where I am located in North East years ago I could have seen the community of Lodge from my door across the cemetery. Today, the dumpsite has totally blocked my view. It is a hill and it is getting higher every day. My mother is buried in Le Repentir Cemetery and it is a challenge to go visit her graveside either on Mother’s Day, on her death anniversary or day of birth because of the high shrubs, awful stench and fear of ill elements that occasionally use the environment as a refuge to hide. I know for sure that there are graves under the dumpsite, and not far from the dumpsite in Le Repentir is the gravesite of the Enmore Martyrs. Is this the way we treat our national heroes and freedom fighters? Is this the way we should honour the dead? Whatever happened to rest in peace?
It is embarrassing to observe funeral services with persons going through the bushes to locate a gravesite for burial. Some mourners have to weep from afar as burial occurs in fear of being attacked by snakes or any pest while they cover their noses because of the foul odour from the dumpsite just nearby. My added fear is that the poor man will have nowhere to bury the dead since the dumpsite has totally exhausted the space in the cemetery. Le Repentir essentially is a mass cemetery where the poor man can bury loved ones, since most churchyards with limited space allot gravesites to the upper echelons of society. Now where should the poor man go? Will people now demolish tombs to allot space for those to come?
I can at least find solace that my mother’s grave is not that close to the ever expanding dumpsite that now sees garbage being dumped on the periphery of Cemetery Road. This road is a crucial artery for traffic from south Georgetown and the East Bank of Demerara to relieve congestion from Public Road, Ruimveldt; Hunter Street, Albouystown and Mandela Avenue – the commute for motorists to central Georgetown. Today, the garbage trucks cause a daily hindrance to traffic since they can no longer park on the access road to the dumpsite that now has a garbage heap. The Cemetery Road has now deteriorated significantly and the stench is unbearable to passers-by.
The direct effects on the residents of surrounding communities are a classic case of cruel and inhumane punishment. It is a daily nightmare that sadly the residents have endured with shame. It is a national health crisis and environmental disaster. There is pollution and blockage of canals, an increase in flies, rodents and mosquitoes in the area, a stench that can lead to nasal congestion and a dry cough, and the eyesore of a dumpsite that demeans us and reminds us that were are not respected by the authorities.
When there is sudden combustion and a fire at the dumpsite I literally want to seek residence elsewhere. We have had cases where the site burns for over two weeks and the residents of North East La Penitence and West Ruimveldt are usually gravely affected according to the direction of the wind. This is a constant recurrence that results in many medical emergencies, especially for infants, children and the elderly. Our community has never seen a health official visit the area, apart from the fact that a health centre is close by. It took a record three days to out the flames of the last combustion at the dumpsite and that was obvious to residents because of the UNASUR Summit. The dumpsite was illuminated in the night with floodlights, and fire tenders worked around the clock to out the flames. This was because the smoke from the flames usually reaches as far as Industrial Site, Ruimveldt (along the route of the motorcade and entourage for the summit delegates) and the National Cultural Centre (that hosted a summit event) that is on Mandela Avenue not that far from the dumpsite. It tells me we are second class citizens in our own land of birth that we toil to build every day.
This is not my first letter on the dire effects of the dumpsite on surrounding communities. I often conjure thoughts of why residents despite numerous complaints must suffer. I have never seen in any country that claims to be civilized and democratic a dumpsite anywhere close to residential areas, and the contempt constantly meted out with its non-closure amidst protests. Is it because people of a particular ethnic group live in the area? I can’t help but conjure such a thought; the communities are predominantly composed of Guyanese of African descent, although in my street we have persons of Indian, Portuguese and Chinese ancestry. We are citizens of Guyana and reflect the national fibre of this great nation. It is simple and ridiculous things like these that make Guyanese migrate out of frustration.
Editor, my hope is that you publish my letter so that all and sundry can read the sentiments of an observer, a resident and Guyanese gravely affected and disgusted by those responsible for this fine mess.
I hail the efforts of Mark Benschop, Freddie Kissoon and Christopher Ram for standing up for us despite the fact that we have not yet stood up for ourselves. They are not directly affected but are equally concerned about the injustice and inhuman treatment of citizens. I urge the authorities to do the honourable and respectable act and close the dumpsite now. We have been fooled too long by empty promises and we want a dump-free community.