As the rainy season in the Rupununi and the associated floodwater continues to isolate the village of Karasabai in the South Pakaraimas, residents have begun to consider alternative routes and methods of transportation.
Toshao Shawn Kortright explained that because the main access road into the village is inundated, residents are sometimes forced to utilize an alternative route which takes them to Brazil, from whence they then have to travel to Lethem. Kortright spoke to Stabroek News on Wednesday at the National Toshaos Conference at Liliendaal.
Even though an alternative route is available, the community does not own a boat or an engine of its own, and as such, persons who opt to use the alternate route are dependent on boats that reach only to a certain point, to move around and access Lethem.
“One or two times we use the boat route when they radio from Lethem to Karasabai saying they picking up people at a certain point known as Good Hope, that’s where we have to travel to access that service. The Village Council does not have a boat or an engine and that is something I wanted to discuss with Minister (in the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs) Valerie (Garrido-Lowe), to request it because every rainy season, every year we suffer, our schoolchildren, especially those who attend Annai Secondary School and the Bina Hill Institute, which is like 60-plus students. The last time they proper punish up and struggle to reach home. We had no boat and we had to cross them over to Brazil to bring them around and this happens every rainy season,” Kortright shared
“I am looking out to have this as an alternative method of transportation for the community. I don’t know how soon we can get this, if we can get this at all, but hopefully before the rainy season comes next year,” the Toshao added.
In addition to having to utilize alternative routes, Kortright stated that the Karasabai Health Centre has faced a shortage of drugs as a result of the isolation caused by the floods.
This, he added, is worrying, since up until his departure from the village to attend the National Toshaos’ Conference in Georgetown, residents have been plagued by flu-like symptoms and are unable to access the drugs they need.
“We are short of drugs at the Health Centre, we have the doctor but no medication. We were looking at the road because since it’s flooded we cannot go out and get the drugs, we are cut off… We have had flood for actually two weeks and the water systems we would normally use for drinking – hand dug wells are flooded and they are now contaminated,” Kortright shared.
“We also do not have access to communication right now, the radio set is down and just before we came, we came together with the other Toshaos and discussed the prospect of doing an all-weather road so that next rainy season we would not be affected so bad. Majority of the Toshaos agreed to this and we are trying to work on it, we are not certain of how many miles, but we are going to try to get it done,” he added.
Meanwhile, Toshao Zacharias Norman of Annai in the North Rupununi, who also spoke with Stabroek News on Wednesday, explained that more than 100 farms in the five communities which he has
responsibility for, are currently inundated.
“I have responsibility for five communities, Surama, Wowetta, Rupertee, Annai and Quatamang and indeed we are affected by the flood, very seriously too. Our people are complaining right now to my Deputy Toshao who I left in charge. They would have made their reports and he has a list of those affected at present,” Norman said.
“A lot of farms are flooded and while we would usually depend on either the pipe systems we have, or rain water for drinking purposes, because the wells that were dug are now contaminated by the flood we have been dealing with that,’ he added.
Regarding the poor condition of the roads, Norman said Surama is especially affected because they have children to transport to school, adding that the bus fare from the North Rupununi to Lethem has increased.
“I am really from Wowetta and there is a place we call Bush Mouth that has worsened and has in the past left people being stranded along the road for hours. If you have no assistance then you are left there and that is the difficulty that my people are facing at the moment. Connecting to Lethem is another issue; at the last RDC meeting we had to bargain with the Ministry to let us come out by plane, because we could’ve been stuck on the trail onto now,” the Toshao shared.
“Bus fares from Lethem has seen an increase, moving from $5,000 return to $6,000, there is no fuel increase, is just because the road is bad,” he added.