D’Urban Backlands squatting area gets potable water for first time in 40 years

Two young residents of the D’Urban Backlands Squatting Area at one of the 29 standpipes installed in their community yesterday by the Guyana Water Incorporated. This is the first time that the area will receive potable water, which is being provided as a first step towards regularisation. (Ministry of the Presidency photo)

Following more than 40 years without potable water, the 3,000 residents of the D’Urban Backlands squatting area, known as ‘Burnham Boulevard,’ in Georgetown, yesterday received 29 standpipes from the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI).

According to Minister of State Joseph Harmon, this is the first step in government’s plan to regularise the community.

“Water is a right not a privilege…the fact that we are having water in standpipes is not the end of the project. Water is just the first step,” he told residents.

“We need to have water in your homes but to get water in your homes, we need to regularise this community so that you can have a proper address, so that you can have light and all of these amenities which are part of living [a] normal life in GT. I’ve asked the CH&PA to pay attention to this. We cannot have people living in the city of Georgetown and they are living in an unrecognised state. It can’t work. You have the Chinese embassy right there, you have foreigners all over the place, yet here we have an un-regularised community, so I threw out the challenge to GWI and they proved up to it. I’ve also thrown it out to Central Housing and Guyana Lands and Survey and whoever else deals with regularization of communities to ensure this community is regularized in the shortest possible time,” the Minister added.

A child in the Durban Backlands squatting area turns on the pipe for the first time. The community, known as ‘Burnham Boulevard,’ was provided 29 standpipes by the GWI yesterday.

Dr. Richard Van West-Charles, Managing Director of GWI, further explained that this is part of the agency’s observation of World Water Day, which was celebrated on Friday under the theme “No One Left Behind.”

He noted that for the next month, GWI will be commissioning similar initiatives in several communities in keeping with Sustainable Development Goal 6 and directives from President David Granger.  SDG 6 calls for each state to “ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

Van West-Charles indicated that it is the intention of GWI to examine the sanitation needs of the community, particularly since the conservancy from which Central Georgetown is supplied with water is immediately east of the collection of homes.

He stressed that the agency will be “looking to make sure there is no infiltration or pollution of the conservancy” and added that there is a responsibility to protect the health of residents, especially young residents, by providing access to water and sanitation services.  “This is water that you can drink. It is safe water but you have to care,” he said, while noting that the goal of GWI is to ensure that all communities in Guyana have access to a similar service 24/7 by 2025.

Constituency Councillor Shonnel Smith-Daniels further indicated that 150 bins will be provided to the homes in the community, whose residents will be expected to pay $200 for a soon-to-be instituted garbage collection service.

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