A ten-point plan for improving the city
Stabroek News
March 7, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Over the years, letters to the editor and editorials have drawn attention to the inadequate state of the city of Georgetown, the capital and supposed showpiece of Guyana. Yet, the city's poor condition persists.

The most recent letter of February 28, 2002 by Brian McIntosh referred to the unkempt nature of the seawall including the promenade and bandstand and of the homeless/vagrants defecating in the area.

I now wish to add my piece about the lack of hygienic standards, and the lack of a sense of aesthetics in the city, and to propose a ten-point plan to deal with the situation.

First, the defecating occurs in other areas of the city, including such central locations as outside the National Park, opposite the Bank of Guyana building and opposite the Red House (virtually outside of the Eddie Grant building, an annexe of the Caricom Secretariat). These vagrants should be driven out of the city.

Second, dead dogs are frequently found on fast speed motor ways, e.g. on Carifesta Avenue and Clive Lloyd Drive and the only form of removal seems to be by way of the tyres of each passing vehicle taking away a piece of the animal's carcass. The City Council needs to make a tour every morning of the major streets/highways to immediately remove the dead animals (which may even include horses and cows). Better yet is a system of prevention involving the return of stray dog catchers. The stray dogs are often covered with mange. A cholera epidemic is always a possibility.

Third, the stray cattle are a menace to human life and limb. This phenomenon of 'landless hersmen' and 'cattle owners without ranches' must stop. Sytematic impounding of cattle found roaming the streets should, if necessary, be upgraded into permanent seizure and destruction.

Fourth, the large number of donkey carts (combined with the high incidence of roaming cattle) results in the streets being covered with dung. The donkey cart drivers should be required to stop their vehicles and spade up these droppings whenever they occur. Moreover, the City Council does not seem to have a policy of every evening sweeping and hosing down those streets that are particularly dirty or polluted, as obtains in certain countries. As in the case of the dead animals on the streets, the filth is gradually removed by the tyres of passing vehicles.

Fifth, the drains in the commercial areas continue to be clogged up with waste of all kinds, much of which is not biodegradable and therefore contributing to flooding when the slightest rainfall occurs. One solution is to make the commercial establishment (and street vendors) responsible for keeping clean the pavement and gutter immediately opposite their premises. (In the USA, both business and private dwelling places are responsible for cleaning their portion of pavements after any snowfall).

Sixth, in order to prevent cups, boxes, plastic wrappings and skins of fruit, being thrown out of passing vehicles, there should be a decree/law which prohibits the consumption of food on minibuses, taxis, and other public ground transportation. Private drivers and passengers should be severely punished for throwing garbage out of their vehicles. Telephone numbers should be published in the daily newspapers to which people can phone to report the existence of garbage and dead dogs and the vehicle number plates out of which rubbish has been thrown. As in the case of the public using the gutters and sidewalks as a rubbish bin, the road/mobile litter problem could be lessened by the City Council instituting radio and television educational programmes, backed up with strict enforcement of the law and more meaningful fines. Schools, businesses, fast food establishments and civic organisations also need to contribute to the educational campaign. An ignorant population is capable of accumulating litter faster than City Council can get rid of the same. There is also the need for more garbage receptacles around the city. One of the penalties for violators should be community service such as the sweeping of the street with dunce caps on their heads clearly marked "littler bug". The watchword is zero tolerance.

Seventh, the city council should not allow old and abandoned vehicles (like old and abandoned buildings) to decorate the landscape. These should be removed to some metal recycling facility or junkyard so as to give the city a less derelict appearance. The old number plate or engine block number can easily reveal the culprits.

Eighth, certain well intentioned practices of the city council paradoxically give rise to other problems. For example, in clearing the trench at the corners of Vlissengen Road and Carifesta Avenue, the mud was thrown up onto the parapet without any attempt at levelling the same. What will happen in time (if it is not washed back into the trench) is that grass will grow over the mound and a most uneven and unsightly stretch of greenery will occur. This perverse demonstration on the part of the city council contributes to private property dwellers behaving in the same manner. A level parapet also makes for efficient cutting of the grass by mechanical means. What we should be striving for throughout the city is something akin to the pleasant swath of green on the parapet alongside Clive Lloyd Drive.

Ninth, the city council (as also the District Councils outside of the City) needs to rid the environment of the assorted set of bush that appears to be along all roads and alleyways and in all other public places (eg the old D'Urban Park Racecourse). Owners of private dwelling places and vacant lots should be encouraged to do the same. Weekly grooming is necessary. But pride is a prerequisite. Neighbours must put pressure on each other to ensure that the surroundings are well kept.

Tenth, a concerted effort is required. Homeowners should be prepared to pay significantly higher rates and taxes and the central government should increase its subvention to the city council. Moreover, the city council would need to manage its resources in a more efficient and effective manner. "Garbage City" could possibly return to its former status of "Garden City". "A thing of beauty is a joy forever".

Yours faithfully,

James Glasgow