THE David Granger-led Administration during the next five years will place significant attention on shoring up the country’s physical infrastructure and improving the welfare of the poor and the homeless.The National Task Force Commission headed by Major General (ret’d) Joseph Singh is the oversight body for this transformation under Project Restore Guyana, which is expected to completed by 2020.
Some $36 million has been budgeted for the administrative work of the Commission for this year. The Commission will be overlooking the multi-billion dollar developmental works in all the Administrative regions.
It was noted that over the years, there has been a significant deterioration of Guyanese life. The decline can be attributed to unplanned settlements, inadequate traffic flows, garbage buildup and occasional flooding in many areas.
Added to this, there have been notable failures in a number of areas, including but not limited to failures to enforce laws and standards; lack of physical planning for growth and renewal; lack of routine and necessary maintenance; and general neglect of the poor, aged, homeless, disabled and other unfortunate ones.
Briefing reporters yesterday on the work of the Commission, Singh said in the next five years, significant attention will be paid to drainage, traffic management, solid waste management, welfare management of the depressed, sustainable development in urban, rural and hinterland regions and the rebranding of Guyana through the restoration of ethical, attitudinal and responsible social and environmental behaviours in all citizens.
He explained that drainage would cover both the internal and external network to prevent water accumulation and the accompanying stress brought on residents through flooding caused by heavy rainfall.
HOPE CANAL NOT THE ANSWER
Singh said contrary to popular belief, the Hope Canal will not take care of flooding on the East Coast of Demerara, but will provide stability for the 270 square miles East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC).
“We still have issues when the rain falls… you have collection of water between the conservancy dam and the crown dam; between the crown dam and the railway embankment road; between the railway embankment road and the East Coast Demerara Highway; between the East Coast Demerara Highway and the sea wall. So once you have an accumulation of water in those reservoirs, unless you have conduits to move the water from those areas out to the Atlantic, you will get flooding,” the Chairman of the Task Force Commission said.
He noted that Buxton is the lowest area between Georgetown and Mahaica, East Coast Demerara and is always the last to drain.
And on that score, Singh urged citizens to disabuse their minds that the Hope Canal is the answer to flooding on the East Coast.
However, he acknowledged that it prevents flooding in the Mahaica Creek during heavy rainfall.
In the area of traffic management, Singh said attention would be paid to road, river and air transport with emphasis on safety and adherence to regulations.
And attention will not be confined to the coast, but extended throughout Guyana, including Lethem, Mabaruma and other mining districts.
Equal attention will be placed on prudent solid waste management and the removal of derelict vehicles which are ever present eyesores.
According to Singh, the indiscriminate disposal of solid waste, resulting in the clogging of drains and canals, is reflective of the indiscipline in society, lack of planning and need for restriction of plastics and Styrofoam.
The wanton disposal of plastics in waterways poses a threat to marine life and this, along with other related problems, he said, would be tackled at the national level.
Aside from these, Singh said comfort will be brought to the homeless, addicted and mentally-challenged, through counselling and guidance.
“We need to treat these people with humanity because we view ourselves as a caring society…. There is a building, a complex that was established for such a purpose at Onverwagt, it is known as the Hugo Chavez building. It was made available to us by Venezuela and I was told that it caters for over 300 residents, currently as of last week, it has only 30. So it is an asset which is underutilised and we need to make use of it and hopefully reduce or eliminate incidents of persons wandering the streets aimlessly because they are not cared for,” Singh said.
But he noted that for these developments to occur, strong attention would have to be placed on behavioural and attitudinal change, not only on the part of people towards the vulnerable, but also towards the environment.
Singh said Guyanese have to move away from the mind-set of cleaning up the environment only when there is a national event, stressing that a revolutionary approach is required for a clean, beautiful and prosperous Guyana.
On that note, he called for a return to teaching of civic responsibilities as well as the history, culture and geography of Guyana in the school system. This, the veteran public servant said will help young people to feel proud to be Guyanese and influence pride in their behaviours and attitudes.
The work of the Commission, Singh said, will be guided by public consultations, and Committees will be established in every region to ensure the proper execution of works to restore, rehabilitate and renew Guyana.
In all, six committees will be established. These are a National Drainage Committee headed by Frederick Flatts; a Solid Waste Management Committe led by Gordon Gikes; a Traffic Management Committee headed by Godfrey Vaughn; a Sustainable Physical Renewal Countrywide Committee supervised by Damien Fernandes; a Welfare Management of Homeless, Addicted and Mentally-Challenged Committee chaired by Donna Short-Gill; and a Public Consultation Stakeholder Committee led by Alex Graham.
The Restore Guyana Project, Singh said, is aimed at rebranding Guyana, where Guyanese can be inspired to see the need for change within themselves, families, schools, religious institutions, neighbourhoods, communities, the regions and the country as a whole.
“Only by such systemic changes in ethics, attitudes, behaviour and a sense of responsibility in all of us, will the Restore Guyana Project be sustainable,” Singh told reporters.
The Commission has been given a clear timetable for deliverables. In September, it will be required to submit a summary report derived from research and public consultations to the Minister of Public Infrastructure; in October, a draft restoration plan including detailed plan and budget for Phase 1 activities; in November present a final restoration plan; and from November to May 2016, monitor implementation of Phase 1 of the ambitious project.
Project Restore Guyana, Singh said, is a national exercise, pointing out that it will involve the participation of every Guyanese, from the youth to members in the diaspora.
Many, he added, are very interested in what’s happening in Guyana and how they can contribute to the process of development.