The Alliance For Change (AFC) is calling on the government to take urgent steps to address the depressed conditions residents of Barnwell North are being forced to endure and to provide potable water to the area and instal a pump at the outfall koker of the Number Three canal.
A team from the AFC, led by Chairman Nigel Hughes and including Daniel Fraser, Neilsen McKenzie, Anil and supporter Ann Atkins visited the East Bank Demerara community on Saturday.
Barnwell North is located east of Mocha Arcadia and east of the squatting area aback Mocha. The village was established in the late 1970s when persons were given leases for one-acre plots for small agricultural development. Over the years it has been inhabited by various small farmers, persons from Pomeroon and the North West district, the party said in a press release.
Access to the village is by way of a poorly maintained earthen dam which extends from the squatting area for about two miles in an easterly direction. The dam is adjacent to and runs alongside the Number Three canal which flows into the Demerara River. Several persons live on smaller dams which run perpendicular and lead to the canal.
Homes at Barnwell North have no running water and electricity and all but two of the yards were inundated with water. Some residents are forced to use the water from the canal to cook and wash cooking utensils and clothing.
The AFC convened an impromptu public meeting on the dam to determine the community’s immediate needs. Residents said their most urgent need is potable water; a pump installed at the Number Three canal at the Demerara River to reduce the permanent flooding during the rainy season; electricity and an access road.
They also pointed out that during the rainy season their agricultural holdings were submerged as the water from the canal would back up and inundate their plots, damaging all their crops. As a consequence they can only plant during the dry season putting them under severe economic strain.
The task of getting their produce to the market has also proven to be a challenge as the dam is in poor condition and transportation to the market at Mocha was unreliable as most of the minibuses and taxis would already be filled by residents of that village.
Residents also told the party that there was a Community Development Council (CDC) which had not held elections for the past four years. They also said they were dissatisfied with the manner in which the CDC conducts its affairs particularly as it relates to those persons who held leases and those farther back who had applied for leases and had not yet been awarded. Residents also spoke of favouritism in the way persons are selected by the CDC for jobs in the community such as cleaning drains.
According to residents, in 2005 Mott McDonald, a UK engineering firm, was commissioned by the Guyana Government to provide a comprehensive report on the drainage on the cost. The report made recommendations for drainage of the lands at Barnwell North which have yet to be implemented, they said.
After the public meeting, the team ventured into one of the side dams where the impact of the flooding of crops was immediately evident. At one home occupied by a family of seven, under the house was flooded and the resident said this was an almost permanent condition and in the evenings he would hear caimans moving about in the water. He also said he has already killed a few snakes. The resident also noted that the walk out from his property to the main road is at least two miles in what would be absolute darkness.
The AFC team also met with the chairman of the CDC who explained that he had spoken with the NDIA and the minister about flooding in the area. The CDC chairman said he was told that a pump was being installed at Herstelling and it was expected that the Number Three canal waters would drain into the Herstelling outflow. He further pointed out that two large drainage canals which previously were fed into the Herstelling outflow were now blocked as a result of the construction of the East Bank Public Road, and they were diverted into the Number Three canal thereby adding to its already over-extended capacity. In addition, all the new housing areas east of the Mocha Road are now draining into the number Three canal further adding to its capacity.
During the visit, the AFC team observed a large number of small children and teenagers ‘liming’ on logs which lay across the canal. On making inquiries it was discovered that most of these children “officially” attend schools in Mocha or further up the East Bank Demerara.
However, given the state of the dam and its isolated long walk out it soon became clear, on further questioning, that few of the children attended school regularly.
The team also learnt that about three years ago a school girl was gang raped and murdered around 3.00pm one afternoon while walking home from school. The case is currently before the court.
The party is urging the government to address the conditions affecting Barnwell North residents. The group also encouraged residents to use their collective efforts and energies to work for positive change in their community.