By Telesha Ramnarine
A LOCAL group of volunteers, who go by the name of ‘Seawalls and Beyond’, is responsible for the remarkable transformation that the seawall area, especially in the vicinity of the Bandstand, has seen recently so far as garbage removal is concerned.
The volunteers, with a core of about 12, are supported by dozens of other Guyanese who turn out mainly on the weekends to lend a helping hand towards getting the area cleaned. In fact, more than one hundred persons turned out last week!
The workers all volunteer their time, energy and resources because they especially love the seawall space and are frequent visitors for recreation and exercise purposes. They feel strongly about the need for the area to not only be cleaned, but restored to its pristine state.
It all started with a single person– a homeless man at that. A rake in hand, Carl Melville got up one day and started cleaning all by himself. A few days later, Dwayne Hackett, who would later become the coordinator of the group, approached and conversed with him about the activity he was undertaking by himself.
Hackett, who dearly loves the seawall space and also wanted to do something about the deplorable state, joined Melville in cleaning. The group grew and grew until it managed to gain the attention of several other persons and businesses – including Guyana’s First Lady, Arya Ali, who invited the group to discuss how her office can lend support.
“I was always worried about the garbage that is built up there and I thought how I can be part of the solution, so when I saw Carl, it really touched me,” Hackett told the Pepperpot Magazine.
He took to social media to write about his experience with Carl and the post went viral. Ever since then, the group has successfully managed to clean the entire stretch from Camp Street, all the way to the Demerara River.
“Since the beginning of August to now, we have removed about 12 to 15 dumpster loads full of trash. The stretch from Camp Street to the river is about one kilometer, and it really took a lot of work to remove all that waste that was built up there for over two years,” he reflected.
No one, it seems, takes strict responsibility for the cleaning of the seawall area – not the Mayor and City Council (M&CC), not the Ministry of Public Works, and not even the vendors who operate on the tarmac! Under the previous administration, a contract was in place for the cleaning of the area once per week, but that reportedly became insufficient.
The new minister within the Ministry of Public Works Deodat Indar, however, has already been contacted on the issue by Head of the Solid Waste Management Department at M&CC Walter Narine.
“No one takes responsibility…but everyone wants to enjoy the space,” observed Hackett, adding, “You’d think the vendors out there would see the value of a beautiful space but they themselves…would not even empty the bins.”
Hackett feels that the government agencies responsible need to take up the mantle so that a sustainable solution can be found. “How long we would be able to continue doing this is a good question,” he said.
But whose responsibility is it to clean the seawall space? Hackett himself is not so sure.
In an invited comment, the Solid Waste Director clarified the issue. According to him, the laws governing the City Council make provision for land and drains, but have nothing to do with sea. “Anything, in terms of sea defence, we are not responsible. The laws border Georgetown…and Georgetown is bordered by Young Street, where TSU Compound is, straight up to Water Street coming back.”
Hence, Georgetown does not include the seawall area. “This is the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works or the Sea Defence Unit as they would call it,” explained Narine, who said he is looking forward to tackling the seawall issues in partnership with the ministry.
So far, Narine has been assisting the volunteer group in the form of technical advice, garbage bags and skip bins. “Beginning soon, we will provide a collection system because New GPC donated 12 drums. We will clear those bins and the others.”
Narine has also contacted the Guyana Fire Service for help to wash the bandstand area, as well as Minister Indar on the possible removal of the vendors from the tarmac to ensure that the area is left for recreation and exercise purposes.
“That area has a lot of potential to become a tourism hub in Georgetown. At the end of the day, it’s Georgetown. My goal and responsibility is to address it the problem,” Narine said, even if this means that he has to personally go out on the seawall and speak to visitors about the need to take home their garbage and avoid littering.
He believes that providing such education can go a far way in dealing with the scourge of littering.