A clean-up, again!

by Donald Sinclair
Guyana Chronicle
June 13, 2001

IN a few days' time there will be another clean-up campaign. The target area will again be the Georgetown Seawall. I have lost count of the number of times the Georgetown Seawall has been the target of a clean-up campaign; lost count of the number of times well-intentioned volunteers have spent patient hours in an effort to restore immaculateness to that area, only to see their labours defeated by the inevitable litter that always seems, mysteriously, to defy containment.

Those clean-up episodes recall the mythical figure Sisyphus who, chained to a large rock, was doomed to try to push that rock up a hill only to have himself and rock roll back down time and time again.

Let there be no mistake. Those who organise and plan Seawall clean-up campaigns with great care and attention to detail, are imbued with the best and noblest of intentions. They are persons filled with disgust at the pervasive litter that lies all around an area they have come to cherish as one of the City's precious spaces. They are driven by a vision of order and cleanliness and will spare no effort to translate that vision into reality.

And let us be honest. It is a joy, albeit temporary, to view the Seawall at the end of such a campaign. But one needs to hurry if one is to enjoy that brief moment of ecstasy. For soon litter wins, and the smell of dirty clothing, courtesy of the Seawall's growing resident homeless population, fills the air.

I was astounded two years ago to see one of the organisers of such a Seawall clean-up carelessly toss his empty beer bottle upon grass that he himself, moments earlier, helped to make clean.

In Guyana it seems that change, remedial action and therapy come very, very slowly. The disease must rage and fester for a long time before the medicine is applied. Courses of action and responses which other societies, not necessarily in the developed world, regard as automatic, swift and uncomplicated, become tediously protracted in Guyana. There has to be a deluge of viewpoints on the subject, letters to editors on the subject, clean-up campaigns, Seawall Days, speeches and addresses on the subject, and yet, we await the kind of decisive, comprehensive action that would leave us time and energy to devote to the much larger issues facing our society.

Once the relevant authorities acknowledge that the Seawall is a zone of special social and historical significance, as has been asserted in numerous viewpoints, letters to the editor, Seawall Days, speeches and addresses, then immediate action should be taken to declare the Georgetown Seawall a special zone and the appropriate resources should be centrally allocated to ensure its maintenance and beautification. Important too, would be the stiff sanctions to be imposed upon those who desecrate this special zone. This would be the job of watchful wardens specially employed for the purpose. The most sensitive aspect of this programme would, of course, be the relocation of the homeless population.

In short, what the Seawall needs, and what the City needs is a programme and a plan that has long-term application. The clean-up campaigns, well-intentioned and nobly motivated as they are, are fated to repeat themselves in that Sisyphean cycle of frustrated effort.