Albouystown group calls for cleaning of Sussex Street canal

Stabroek News
October 31, 2002

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The Albouystown Neighbour-hood Democratic Association (ANDA) held a press conference recently to lament what it says is the City Council's reluctance to desilt and clean the Sussex Street canal.

But Deputy Mayor of the Mayor and City Council's (M&CC) and head of the finance department, Robert Williams said that it is strapped for cash. Williams said that there are many large companies in the city and also some government agencies which have not been paying up their taxes promptly. He told this newspaper via telephone yesterday that residents of Albouystown alone owe the council over $10 million in rates and taxes.

As a consequence payment of workers salaries has seen delays recently. The council has however noted the state of the canal and is willing to take it on as soon as possible. Williams mentioned that earlier in this year the council had met with ANDA. He said that subsequent to that meeting the association requested that the council dig the Sussex Street canal. "We took note of the request but the canal cannot be dug unless the revetment of the canal is fixed. To fix the revetment is very costly and we cannot handle that at present," Williams said.

ANDA says that the canal is in a terrible condition and during a media tour to the site recently Stabroek News observed the canal thick with weeds amidst huge piles of debris. The association is of the view that if the canal remains as it is for much longer residents living close by would be at risk of being bitten by reptiles.

Williams told Stabroek News yesterday that the M&CC has been holding discussions with the Ministry of Public Works and it had been agreed that to fix the revetment funding would have to come from another source. Williams disclosed that currently talks are underway between the Works Ministry and the Caribbean Development Bank in an effort to secure a loan to construct the revetment. ANDA general secretary, Michael Goodman said that the last time the organisation met with the media it was in the process of desilting the drains and alleyways in Albouystown. The project he said was completed at the end of the maintenance period at a cost of $5M.

Goodman said ANDA having endured ridicule from residents of Albouystown and other surrounding villages has been over the years making requests and even submitting estimates to have the Sussex Street canal cleaned. ANDA wrote to the City Works Committee in August requesting a meeting. Goodman said they received acknowledgement of the letter in late September.

Goodman said he was later informed by a senior official at the council that the council is strapped for cash.

Realising that in the event of a major fire in the area there is no other canal which could provide water, the organisation sought help from President Bharrat Jagdeo. He said they have not received any response as yet. Goodman said over the past four years the President had provided funds to have the drains, alleyways and parapets in the area cleaned. He said in the whole of Albouystown there are six ground hydrants that were installed by the then Georgetown Sewerage and Water Commissioners and they are all inoperable. He said even if the council could not afford to do a thorough cleaning a temporary one would do.

Williams also said that the outfall of the canal has a problem. According to him the siltation rate is greater than the rate at which the council can clean the canal.

A temporary cleaning of the canal would cost the council some $8M.

Williams declared that to do any cleaning of the canal would require massive financing. He however said that the council is willing to assist the area in whatever way possible.

Meanwhile a representative of the Sanitation Department of the M&CC, Noel Persaud who was present at the press conference assured ANDA that he would have a team of sanitation officers visit the canal and assess whether it could be rid of mosquitoes. Further, an officer from the Public Health Department said her department would sit down and work out a comprehensive health education programme targeting everyone in the village. The officer said they are hoping that by launching the programme certain residents would stop littering the canal.

Cindy Best an officer attached to the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP) told the meeting that as long as a clean up project fitted into the requirements of SIMAP, funding would be provided.

But she cautioned that if the village had benefited from a similar project in the past it would not qualify for help again.