Residents of Wakenaam are unhappy about the state of their main access road and say they feel abandoned as its longstanding deplorable condition is hampering their daily lives and the island’s economic growth.
Stabroek News visited the Essequibo River island on Wednesday and travelled along the approximately 15-mile stretch of road that encircles the island. The road, which is used to access all the small communities on the island, was observed littered with potholes of varying sizes, among other faults.
Certain sections of the road are in such a deplorable state that it is difficult to differentiate between the road and the parapet. At other areas, persons are forced to navigate off the road in order to prevent damage to their vehicles.
“This road deh like this fuh de longest time. They must be do some lil patch work like three to four years ago but besides that since it mek, no major works do on it. And is nah like is piece, piece of the road that bad. Is the whole stretch that bad. From the moment you come off the boat and you come on the road, is two potholes greeting you and I sure you can’t even move 20 metres on the road and seh the whole thing was smooth,” Rash, a resident, related.
The man said he feels as if both the previous and present administrations abandoned Wakenaam since no major works have been done on the road as far as he can remember.
“We feel abandoned cause like nobody don’t care what’s going on here and you can see it for yourself. Is only one main road we got that everybody does got to use. Regardless of what part of the island you on, you got to use this one road. If you want to get to the other side, is the one road you have to use,” he added.
The man pointed out that the terrible condition of the road is affecting farmers who have a difficult time transporting their goods.
“Even a tractor does got a difficult time driving on this road much less them cars. Every week you does bruk up something on your vehicle and you always gotto be repairing and spending money. We done not making money because of the road and other problems and we gotto keep spending because of the road again,” he explained.
He said that when it rains, the road’s condition worsens as it gets covered in thick mud which makes it extremely difficult for vehicles to traverse.
Because of the condition of the road, residents have been forced to purchase bicycles for their children to move about since it is expensive to hire vehicles for transportation around the island, despite it being a relatively short distance.
Rash related that to get to the other side of the island, it would cost someone about $2,500, and most times, children are often coming from one side to attend school on the other side.
However, even with their bicycles, they usually have a difficult time traversing the road because of its condition.
“You does gotto sorry for them children sometime on that road because it tough. It
tough to drive on and it tough to ride on with a motorcycle much less a bicycle. What happens when one of them get a puncture on the road now ‘cause of all the holes? They gotto walk the whole road back home and that does happen,” he added.
Head of the Wakenaam Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) Sheik Ahmad also spoke with Stabroek News and said that the road has been this way for more than three years and continues to get worse.
“I wouldn’t say major works were done but if there was a regular grading of the roads, it would be better. The grader was down in Region Three and we were hoping to have the grader last year but it seems as if the region didn’t see it fit to send it as yet and we are still hoping to get it. It’s a quick fix but not a general fix,” Ahmad said, while pointing out that approximately 90 per cent of the road is in a deplorable condition.
He further explained that while there is money budgeted in the national budget for work to be done on the road, he is unsure of the amount or when the work will start. However, he noted that the NDC cannot undertake the works on the road and would only be able to do so if they receive adequate help from central government.
“We have been saying to the previous government and this government that if you are building a road in Wakenaam, you need to have a maintenance plan done and we don’t have one. With our small budget, if given the adequate finance from central government, we can manage a maintenance plan but presently, no. It’s very difficult especially given our circumstances and the fact that we don’t have a tractor and trailer. However, we are planning to execute that this year based on our budget and subvention which will enhance the NDC work flow,” he added.
The residents say they are hoping that either the regional administration or central government will listen to their cries and quickly undertake the needed repair works to the road. However, they said that they are requesting more comprehensive repair works and less “patchwork.”
“If this road fix watch how many more people gon come back to Wakenaam and get back into farming and whatever they were doing before. People running because of various reasons but this road is one of them. We need a better road,” a resident said.