On April 5, it was reported in the state news media that Junior Public Infrastructure Minister, Annette Ferguson who was accompanied by Regional Councillor Julian Cummings visited the riverine communities of Friendship and Martindale on the Pomeroon River to address concerns affecting the livelihood and well-being of residents particularly the clogged canals which were adversely affecting ingress and egress to their homesteads.
Over the years these neglected communities have suffered from the lack of basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity, potable water and sewage disposal. Therefore, the people should not delude themselves into thinking that anything substantial will be done anytime soon to improve their lot from Minister Ferguson’s visit since the Government has no development plan for this considered backwater area. However, it’s worth a try for them to seek assistance from the State as they do not have the financial/technical resources to do much of the “heavy lifting” required to improve their communities nor the political clout to effect the necessary changes.
Firstly, the Government should be requested to provide a dragline/excavator through the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority to clear the clogged canals of silt and vegetation. This will enable residents to get their produce to market, their children to school and their sick to the hospital in a timely manner. Secondly, the cultivated areas should be empoldered to prevent flooding from excessive rainfall, runoff from adjoining lands and overtopping from the Pomeroon River.
Next, the Government should provide low-interest loans for residents to buy solar-generated electricity for their homes which is cost-effective vis-a-vis diesel-generated electricity. Loans should also be provided to assist the residents to purchase 400/500 gallons PVC tanks to store rainwater for their domestic use. A pit latrine designed with the help of the local sanitary inspector could take care of waste disposal. If adequate financial resources later become available, the pit latrine could be upgraded to a septic tank installation.
Water transportation would be the modus operandi for these communities for the foreseeable future. Therefore the Government should make available duty-free Yamaha 25 HP outboard motors for the people to buy as well as provide them with technical assistance to help them design and build efficient and cost effective boats to meet their needs.
Minister Ferguson had informed residents of the Pomeroon region that drainage and maintenance of canals within their communities were not areas for which regional governments receive funding to manage on behalf of the Central Government. Further, she claimed that the complaint she was requested to look into did not fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) but she would nevertheless engage further with executives of the RDC and other ministers of the government when she returned to office.
It is inconceivable that Minister Ferguson was oblivious to the fact that the Central Government has been and is spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars to provide drainage for Georgetown, East Coast Villages, and other coastland areas. Further, the Honourable Minister must have been aware that the MPI has been dabbling with the drainage of Georgetown, East Bank of Demerara villages and elsewhere since year 2015.
The rainy season is expected to commence in a few weeks’ time. It is important therefore for the government to start addressing the needs of a desperate people, thereby alleviating them out of their misery.