Bus operators in Bartica say that a protest is imminent unless the Regional Demo-cratic Council (RDC) agrees to a meeting to hear recommendations relating to the reconstruction of the 1-5 Miles Bartica/Potaro Road.
But this is not the first time operators in the Region 7 community have threatened such actions due to the state of the road, which was repaired just last September.
The deplorable condition of the road last year prompted protest action by minibus operators who only agreed to end the strike after the regional officials, inclusive of the Regional Chairman and the Regional Executive Officer,
and an engineer from the Works Ministry promised that the road would not deteriorate further.
The promise was made following “patch jobs” carried out from 1-4 Miles along the road. But 5 Miles was not repaired along with the other sections of the road.
Today, the state of the road is just as bad as it was last September and Chairman of the Bartica Branch of the United Minibus Union Micah Williams is not surprised.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Williams said that the union foresaw the deterioration of the road from the beginning because of the materials that were used and the way the works were being conducted were not adequate. The union, he said, had made recommendations for the works that ought to have been carried out. However, after the regional administration asked for a chance to go about repairing the road “their way,” the union decided to give it a chance. But the RDC failed, Williams argued, saying the road started to become all but impassable just a few weeks after it was repaired.
Today, Williams said, additional works, which started about a week ago, are ongoing but it is clear that these works are insufficient to fix the problem. The works are being carried out on the stretch of road which was neglected during last year’s works.
The works being carried out are again “patch jobs,” Williams said and he believed that the crusher run which has been laid on the road is already being washed away in certain sections. Williams is of the opinion that one of the major issues is that the road was never really a paved road and he also suggests that the tar that was used in last year’s “patch job” was diluted with kerosene.
He said that the union recently sent correspondence to regional officials requesting a meeting at which it wishes to share recommendations on how to efficiently fix the road. However, although the region has indicated that it has received the letter, it is yet to indicate whether it is prepared to facilitate such a meeting, Williams revealed.
As a result, the union will be issuing an ultimatum to the region, “hold the meeting or we go on strike.” Williams noted the fact that school has just reopened and school children might be affected by such actions but he said “we have to do what we have to do.”
The recommendations for works to the road include widening it, making it thicker, installing a drainage system along the full length of the road, and ensuring that it is properly asphalted. The drainage component is especially important, Williams said, since the lack of proper drainage causes water to collect on the road, which weakens it.
The union has long argued that the state of the road leads to a plethora of issues, including prolonging any journey. Further, the condition of the road has damaged many vehicles, including minibuses and operators have considered increasing fares to compensate for the cost of spare parts, which they say they are forced to buy frequently.
Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon last year had stated that $16.4 million had been set aside for temporary repairs to the road and a contractor from the coastland was to have started permanent works.