Rice farmers and drivers who traverse the five-mile Burma Road in Region Five say that contractors continue to take the awards for the roads and deliver sub-par works, even as the Region Five administration has said that the maintenance is being stalled by the inclement weather, among other reasons.
“This road ain’t deh in no proper state. Every year is the same damn thing with these people. Last year is $9M they say they spend on the road and this year you hear is $7.5M. They ain’t using the money to do any proper work on this road…, one angry driver complained.
The works are being undertaken by contractor Shereaz Bacchus and according to Region Five Chairman Bindrabhan Bisnauth, the road was expected to be completed on Thursday but
it has been delayed for another couple of days for several reasons. “By mid (this) week the maintenance will be through. There is a shortage of hot mix and we cannot commit ourselves right now to do the road… We have to wait on the bitumen plant to supply the hot mix, this is also holding us back with the De Hoop branch road. Another thing that is affecting us is the rainy weather,” the chairman explained.
Bisnauth told Stabroek News last week that the maintenance work is ongoing and that a contract was awarded to do 1100 feet of asphalted concrete on a stretch of the road and that work is about 90% completed. He added that the overall work is 65% completed. When Stabroek News visited the area on Wednesday, there was evidence that a small section of the road had been done recently.
According to a driver, who uses the road every day to transport bran and paddy, “driving a truck with weights every day on the road is not easy as we have to manoeuvre through the many potholes on the road…up to five days ago, a truck that de carrying three tonnes topple over on the road because of them big holes in the road.”
The driver said, that because of the state of the road, several of them came together to fill one of the deeper holes in the road.
“This road so bad, that couple of we had to come and fill one of them big holes because we couldn’t take it anymore. The residents who live in here keep saying that we damage the road, but we have to work with what we get…every year they telling we that they do the road, but wah they call do is that they dig out a hole and put some bitumen inside and the is the big road that they do,” he explained.
“This road needs 90% compaction before you build the road to take the weight of the trucks before you start applying tar or bitumen…They come and just grade and throw little bitumen that won’t even last two morning,” another driver stated.
A worker attached to the SAJ rice mill told this publication that he has to repair his car constantly because of the condition of the road. “This road is terrible and it has been like this since I have been living in here for the past five years. If it does get better than this, is not for more than a month. Soon as a little rain fall the road turns to slush. Every minute I does have to be changing something or the other on my car. Some days you go out there, if you don’t keep your eye on the road, the bottom of your car will be touching the road. For the past three weeks is only last night this rain fall, so I don’t know how they could say is the rain stalling them,” he added.
Many drivers, however, have said that they do not blame the contractor, because those in authority use the road every day and do nothing about it. “It is a shame that this road deh in this state, the regional chairman does pass in here every day and he should be ashamed of the state of this road. Look at all the revenue this area generates. You can take a survey of this area, farmers from as far as Rosignol bringing in paddy into here. This place get the SAJ rice mill and the Guyana Rice Development Road. They does be passing we in front here with all the materials for this road and carrying it to Mahaicony Creek…. They passing some big holes and fetching all the stuff to the bottom there. The road there is not 100%, but it is good compared to this road,” an irate driver fumed.
He added that the workers have never reached into Burma with a tarred road. “They always stopping in front with the tar. What we want is a full tar road from the public road to the airstrip at the back. We don’t want no little piece tar road like what they do the other day.”
During a visit by this newspaper to the area in July, several residents had also complained about the transportation woes. “No vehicle wants to come down this road. Dem cars and minibus does cry out how the road long to come in and that it is damaging their vehicles. One car does work in here and he does charge us $100 to go in and come out. When he is not working or [if] he vehicle full, we does have to depend on a bed truck from the SAJ rice group, which transports the children and workers in the community out of the village free of cost,” a resident explained. She added that if it wasn’t for the kindness of the company, they didn’t know how they would get out or into Burma. “This truck has eased the burden off of us.”
Following that visit, the Region Five administration had issued a statement saying that only 10% of the maintenance works had been done and the remainder had been stalled by the weather.
The region noted that “Contract # 306/13 for General Maintenance Burma Branch Road,” valued $7,495,800, was signed on May 29, 2013 between the Regional Democratic Council, Region No. 5 and Contractor Shereaz Bacchus and that the planned work was timetabled to last three weeks.
However, it noted that because of the poor weather pattern, which is unsuitable for road construction, only the mobilisation of equipment, the clearing of road shoulders and the cleaning, squaring and cutting of existing potholes have been completed on the road as per the bill of quantities.
It added that information emanating from the region’s Engineering Department revealed that so far approximately 10% of the work has been completed. “This 10% of works were done based on a request from farmers and residents to facilitate easier ingress and egress from the rice mill,” it noted. The region further said that work will resume as soon as the weather pattern changes, while noting that further delays are envisaged due to the unpredictable weather pattern. It appears that weather is still affecting the work
Farmers of the village had staged a protest last year after which relief works were done on the road at a cost of $9M. Even after the works were 80% completed, residents had complained to this newspaper then that the road was not being done with suitable materials and as such was deteriorating rapidly. They said that the use of crusher run and loam was not suitable for a road that is being used by heavy-duty vehicles on a regular basis.