Restoring the Garden City

The venerable and brilliant Pat Dial wrote in this publication a few years ago “Over the last few months, one of the major consumer concerns has been the flooding of the City of Georgetown and the farmlands over the Coastal Regions. These disastrous floods have been occurring annually and the media and leaders of public opinion have, in one way or another, been saying that the remedy lies in expending a great deal of scarcely available funds on pumps and other costly infrastructure.

“Older folk remember when Georgetown and most of the Coast rarely ever flooded, despite torrential rains. The drainage system bequeathed by the Dutch served Guyana very well until it began to be neglected over many years and the neglect has had a direct relationship to the flooding.

“Most who speak about flooding never mention the suffering and loss communities and individuals suffer: House foundations become weakened or are destroyed; homes are flooded, sometimes for days, destroying furniture and equipment and valuable and unique books and personal records; the roads deteriorate; gardens are destroyed and today, there are no well-kept gardens in Georgetown and its environs. The poor, the old and the sick suffer terribly since they are unable to move about or to cook or to buy food and often go hungry. And the floods bring diseases and ailments which particularly affect these vulnerable groups.

“From time to time over the last several years, there have been clean-up campaigns, especially in Georgetown. Many of the City’s canals have been intermittently desilted but the flooding still persists because the smaller feeder drains are still silted up and the culverts are all damaged or choked. These smaller drains have to be cleaned if any relief is to be brought to citizens.”

Mr. Dial then listed a menu of measures, proposed over the years by the Guyana Consumers Association, that he is convinced would alleviate the problems that flooding cause by reducing the build-up of water in communities, especially in urban areas.

However, the solutions that he proposes ae largely dependent on the cooperation of the public, but until recently the public is the main culprit in precipitating the problems listed by Mr. Dial through their blatant littering of public spaces, which is the main cause of the incessant problems caused by flooding in the country.

Once a country with a culture of cleanliness ingrained within its national psyche, the current state of Guyana’s environment from end to end of the coastland bespeaks a converse attitude of disregard for the health and wellbeing of the nation, as well as unconcern for the gradual deterioration in the scenic landscape of this paradise-like country, once described by colonials as “The Magnificent Province”. The evidence of Guyana’s current culture of littering, which has become endemic to the Guyanese society, is manifest to visitors on the highway from the CJIA – heaped intermittently in piles right until they reach their destination; sadly, in or out of the city.

Littering is a serious environmental issue in many countries. Litter can exist in the environment for long periods of time before degrading and be transported large distances into the world’s oceans. Litter can affect quality of life of both humans and lesser animals on land; as well as aquatic life.

Various areas in Guyana proliferate with garbage and shows extensive littering of plastic and paper. Human waste, illustrated by males urinating, oftentimes like dogs against lampposts, as well as fecal matter deposited in drains by homeless people, increase bacteria levels on land and in the water.

Throughout animal history, people have disposed of unwanted materials without fear of retribution, onto streets, roadsides, in small local dumps or often in remote locations. Prior to reforms within cities in the mid-to-late 19th century, sanitation was not a government priority. The growing piles of waste led to the spread of disease, with plaques often wiping away thousands of lives at one instance of affliction.

Negligent or lenient law enforcement contributes to littering behaviour. Other causes are inconvenience, a feeling of entitlement and economic conditions. Also unavailability of public trash and recycling service, shortage of enforcement, and habit are possible causes. The presence of litter invites more littering.

The implications of understanding the different types of litter reduction interventions that will most effectively reduce littering in a given environment are essential to enhance quality of human life.

Litter can remain either visible for extended periods of time before it eventually biodegrades, with some items made of condensed glass, styrofoam or plastic possibly remaining in the environment for long periods.

Litter also carries substantial cost to the economy as cleaning up litter costs millions of dollars, much more than the cost of proper trash disposal.

Public waste containers or street bins should be provided by local authorities to be used as a convenient place for the disposal and collection of litter.

Government continually expend huge amounts of national revenue in trying to curtail the habit of irresponsible waste disposal, but the long-term solution to the problem lies in the citizens themselves becoming aware that it is not a ‘them’ problem, it is an ‘us’ problem; because the threat to health and public safety means that if an epidemic breaks out the entire country would be affected.


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