There is a virtually unshakable consensus amongst residents in the capital that the state of our municipal markets is an acute embarrassment to our capital and that officialdom, at the levels of the municipality, central government and the private sector evince no real sense of concern over this state of affairs. What obtains is a sense of indifference to the fact that our marketplaces are run-down, poorly maintained – for the most part – and vermin-infested as if that is how markets are supposed to. In essence, neither the high-sounding rhetoric that commonly emanates from these sources about environmental awareness nor the ever present danger that markets have become incubators for some serious malady has altered the prevailing indifference to the situation.
These are the same spaces that provide a livelihood for hundreds of traders and their families and, over time and notwithstanding the fees they pay for the prerogative of trading in the markets they have little choice but to endure the conditions.
The relationship between the vendors and the municipality is an exploitative one insofar as fees are extracted for services that are, to say the least, rendered with monotonous inconsistency. What stands out in the worst possible way is the recklessness that attends the disposal and general management of solid waste in our markets and their environs.
If a great deal has already been written about the recent flooding, there is every likelihood that much of this may have already been forgotten. It is the way that our bureaucrats work. Forward planning is not a common pursuit and the general condition of emergency that ‘breaks out’ whenever there is a flood attests to the way we have grown used to living.
As best as we can tell there is no structured regime for ensuring the cleanliness and environmental safety of our markets. While it is common knowledge that they are breeding grounds for an assortment of vermin, there appears to be no routine and comprehensive cleaning programme that takes account of the fact that these trading spaces need to be kept to a minimum standard of cleanliness. Part of the reason for this has to do with the fact that it does not appear that anyone or any institution is accountable. The other reason, it has to be said, has to do with the general indifference of patrons who have appeared increasingly disinclined to raise their voices over the prevailing state of affairs.
There was something almost comical about the recent exercise in closing the doors after the horses had bolted that occurred in the vicinity of Bourda Market recently. If our first thought was for the ensuing loss of trading that resulted from having to close the market so that the cleanup exercise could proceed our second thought was a sort of when will they ever learn, a refrain that has to do with the fact that all of the fuss that attended events in the area of the market during the flooding could have been avoided had the officials and institutions concerned been resolved to do their jobs with a far greater measure of conscientiousness.
Not, it seems, unmindful of the fact that Christmas rains are par for the course in Guyana another cleaning crew descended on the market area earlier this week, de-silting drains, clearing the customary disgusting piles of solid waste that so often adorn a section of the eastern extreme of Bourda Green and at least making an attempt to remove some of the obstacles which, since the flood, had come to a standstill in the North Road canal directly opposite the market. What was noteworthy was that a small fleet of trucks was on hand to remove that hundreds of buckets of slush being removed from the drains and the canal. On the whole, the cleaning crew was going about its business with a sense of diligence and if some of the stallholders were clearly being discommoded they clearly didn’t seem to mind.
It seemed odd that a cleanup of that magnitude was taking place outside of a period of bad weather.
On the other hand it provided what might perhaps be best described as an odd sort of lesson, a sign, perhaps, that someone, somewhere is beginning to get the absurdly simple message about the need for us to remain in a state of readiness.