Continuous rainfall in the Matarkai Sub-District of Region One (Barima-Waini) has reduced an already deplorable Matarkai access road to an impassable slush dam posing difficulties to those who traverse the roads in the area.
One such resident is Pearly Welcome, who just last week lost both her trucks after they were involved in separate accidents. She said she believed the accidents could have been avoided had the road been in better condition.
Speaking with Stabroek News, the woman who is a resident of Port Kaituma, explained that prior to the accidents, the trucks were used to transport groceries and fuel supplies to the satellite villages of Baramita, Arakaka and several locations where gold mining is done.
It was during one of those journeys last week Monday that the first truck, which was being driven by her son, encountered a bridge in the vicinity of an area known as Falls Top, somewhere between Port Kaituma and Mathew’s Ridge. Welcome related that when the truck attempted to cross the bridge, the structure which was said to be deteriorating, caved in causing the truck to topple.
Luckily, neither her son nor the other workers who were in the truck at the time, were injured. However, she noted that the truck “write off” as it can no longer be used as a result of the extensive damage.
A similar situation occurred the following day with the other truck which was being driven by Welcome’s husband. This time, the incident was said to have occurred in the vicinity of an area known as Teachers’ Quarters. Like the other truck, this one was damaged beyond repair, resulting in the family suffering losses amounting to $14 million.
Welcome asserted that the condition of the road has been the same for the past 25 years with nothing being done to fix it.
The woman related that she had engaged the Port Kaituma/Arakaka/Matthews Ridge Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) on several occasions to see what was being done to rectify the issue. However, she said she was told that there is nothing they can do about it since the finances are not available to fix the roads.
Welcome, however, said even if that is the case, if given the necessary machinery, residents would take it upon themselves to maintain the road.
Chairperson of the NDC Margret Lambert, when contacted, was quick to point out that the main access road does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NDC, thus they are all awaiting word from central government on when works would be done.
In the meantime, she said, attempts were made to have residents engage in ‘self-help’ work but such efforts were futile.
Meanwhile, in an invited comment, Regional Chairman Brentnol Ashley stated that the condition of the Matarkai Road is a main concern for the Regional Democratic Council (RDC).
However, he pointed out that money was not allocated in the regional budget for the rehabilitation of the roads in that area. Ashley explained that the RDC had proposed a budget for the rehabilitation of the road from Port Kaituma to Baramita. However, they were told that the requested amount was too large for the regional budget thus the monies for the work were transferred to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. But to date, there has been no indication of when work on the road will commence, he said.
The chairman further claimed that the allocated budget does not cater for rehabilitation works but for small repairs to the road and it also does not cover the rehabilitation of bridges.
“They took it out of the regional budget so now we are solely dependent on the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and that is not good enough. We do sympathize with Ms Welcome for the financial loss she has suffered; we too hope that the situation can be addressed for the benefit of the people in Matarkai,” he said.
Similar sentiments were shared by Regional Vice-Chairperson and Chairperson of the region’s Public Infrastructure Standing Committee Sarah Browne.
Browne told Stabroek News that the roads in the Matarkai area are deplorable and it has worsened to a point where sections are “practically impassable” particularly with the prevailing rainy weather. She further stated that no works have been done on that road since 2014.
“The RDC had budgeted for the works but it was all removed from our budget and placed into central ministry coffers so basically we have zero dollars to look at Matarkai roads,” she said.
“It is a grave concern for us at the RDC because it’s already June and no work has started on the road. After the last RDC (meeting), a team headed by the Regional Chairman went to Georgetown to engage the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. While there, we were told that the allocations were only to fix some of the bad spots and that the budget does not cater for bridges,” Browne revealed.
In terms of what will happen as regards the rehabilitation of the bridges, Browne related that in light of the budget restrictions, the NDC has been trying to get public spirited citizens to assist in works.