The annual heavy rains seem to have already descended upon the Rupununi. The headwaters of most of the main rivers in this area are swollen and a number of areas are already inundated and impassable.
Residents of the Rupununi are watching this development with alarm because there is deep worry that the main access route from Georgetown to Lethem will not be able to withstand another prolonged (or even short) rainy season. If this main artery is severed then the Rupununi is in for much hardship over the coming weeks or months.
The rain has been falling for just over a week and already there are major signs through the entire 400 plus kilometres from Linden to Lethem that the road is not going to stand up during the rainy season. Previously there were only sections of the road, most notably the Hunt Oil stretch, that deteriorated during the rainy season but recent evidence indicates that this time the problems will be over a much wider area. Already, the 10-12 hour journey can only be done in a minimum of 16-20 hrs. This drastic increase in travel time is direct evidence of the extent of the deterioration of the road.
It was disappointing to hear our President trumpeting his political horn about how much money will be spent on the road when he knew fully well that these repairs cannot be done until after the rains.
The question therefore to our President is what will his government do in the interval while the Rupununi suffers? Time and again, experienced engineers state that hinterland road works must be done well in advance of the rainy season. So why did our government and its supposedly knowledgeable batch of engineers wait until it is so late to commence preparation for repairs to the road (and this only covers the bidding process)?
Also, what happened to the contract that the government had with MMC for road maintenance? It has been a very long while since they were seen doing any repairs yet their toll structure (which includes costs for road maintenance) remains the same.
A casual question at their crossing at Kurupukari brought the response that they were more focused on laying the fibre optic cable that is to be run from Brazil to Guyana.
Last year after the heavy rains damaged the Hunt Oil stretch, traffic was cut off completely for weeks and there was a rations and fuel shortage. The Ministry of Public Works hastened to do temporary remedial works.
At that time residents thought that was exactly what it was – remedial works – since it was very shabby (understandably so since it was done in the middle of the rainy season when the area was subject to much flooding). But from then to now nothing was done to upgrade that section.
This is even though there was a complete road works crew from that ministry camped along this stretch for months. Many remarked about the poor condition of this stretch of road while personnel and equipment sat there idly.
It is almost inevitable that this section of the road will once again deteriorate but the sloppiness of the repair works last year may only render it more difficult to repair this time around.
There is also the case where, even before the rains of 2009, the government promised to concrete all of the bridges along this road since larger and heavier vehicles were using it.
Up to now not a concrete bridge has been built and many of the wooden ones are disasters waiting to happen.
For this year alone, there have been a number of accidents along a stretch called ‘Devil Hill’ where cargo trucks overturned because this section is very steep and the road is poorly maintained.
Lethem has been honoured with the presence of our President and the PPP presidential candidate on a number of occasions within the past month. They have made many promises.
One only hopes that they are also aware that an all weather road between the Rupununi and Georgetown is a valued asset and they are doing all that they can to ensure this.
In the meantime the residents can only hope that our government has our interests at heart and that they will not allow us to suffer during this rainy season.
(Name and address provided)