Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is City Hall's excuses for floods pre-recorded?

The rainy season is here again and coming out of City Hall, one can hear the very same excuses for why the capital is flooded so quickly. It seems almost as if there is a pre-recorded response, taped years ago, which is pulled out by the Council every year and played for the dubious benefit of the citizens of Georgetown.
While it may not constitute the whole of the problem, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there is a direct nexus between improper refuse disposal and the drainage problems facing the City of Georgetown. There is the issue of individual responsibility either by both private and corporate citizens of this municipality.
During the last anti-litter campaign it would be recalled that it was widely publicised that persons caught littering would be fined $15,000. As laudable as the amendment governing the establishment of that figure is – the fact of poor enforcement aside – given the enormity and complexity of the problem, a more sophisticated system of sanctions should be developed.
There is no small degree of negative economic impact as a direct result of flooding, whether we’re talking about reduced sales at consumer goods stores, widespread absenteeism from work, additional healthcare cost due to flood-related illnesses, or direct damage to property.
It would make sense therefore to create a refuse disposal penalty regime that is both punitive as well as compensatory with regard to both the level of the fine and the alternative penalty. A formula could be worked out, for example, linking the volume and type of garbage to specific fines. Depending on the level and incidence of the offense, the alternative could either be drainage/refuse disposal-based community service or, in select cases, some amount of jail time.
While there is obviously no way to police every single offender all the time or corresponding facilities to house same, the application of stiff maximum penalties to those who continue to transgress the law would send a clear message to everyone.
One initiative that can work in conjunction with this is the engagement of local entities like the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association in holding their membership accountable for breaches in refuse disposal regulations and laws. With respect to holding the individual citizen accountable, an effective tool would be the establishment of a hotline where callers could leave anonymous tips with specific regard to refuse disposal issues.
Another dimension to the overall problem of refuse disposal and drainage is that of squatting. Whatever arguments you want to make for the right to have your habitation - something I’ll touch on briefly later in this article - the fact is that wherever there is squatting, there is poor infrastructure and no inclusion in the service delivery mandate of the municipality.
This means that squatters do not fall into the designated collection areas, although they may, in fact, physically exist within them, which means that they have to find other means of waste disposal. More often than not this means the city’s waterways. There has been some progress with managing squatting on the Lamaha railway embankment but in a city criss-crossed by drainage canals, this represents a mere fraction of the overall problem.
The key hurdle in all this of course is enforcement. Without adequate enforcement of existing and future laws and by-laws, it is inevitable that the recording is going to be pulled out again in upcoming years.
Staying silent, in retrospect, is arguably almost as bad as partisan criticism in that it forms part of the misinformation that is peddled with regard to developments simply by not countering it. Guyana’s brain drain continues largely in part because all stakeholders do too little – for whatever reason – in educating the young about the opportunities which exist in their own country. This is a phenomenon that has transcended administrations since Independence.


  1. There must be some sort of effectiveness to deal with this issue cause over the years there has been one major effect for the rainy season which shouldn't be,cause city hall should be doing their work preparing for this but i guess it the lack of responsibility that make us face this problem every time.

  2. Hammie would continue to prove his incompetence over and over, the May-June rain would be stepping in shortly and this would be the same in the city once again. Where would this lead us and how long would we keep paying Hammie for his wastefulness.