Citizens to be engaged on Public Works Ministry’s infrastructural failures
“One is forced to conclude that in some instances these works are undertaken to provide work for the privileged and well connected Contractors,” Joseph Harmon
By Gary Eleazar
The recent monumental failure at the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) has prompted the Parliamentary coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to engage in another round of public consultations.
The most recent rounds of these talks were related to the budgetary cuts and had been undertaken by all of the political stakeholders involved, namely APNU, the Alliance for Change and the ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic.
APNU Executive Member, in the form of former Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Joseph Harmon, relayed the information to this publication and emphasizes that the core objective of this round of consultation targets “the provision and state of services to people and their communities, in particular those concerned with public infrastructure.”
Harmon had related that the matter is of urgent concern given the recent collapse of the Demerara Harbour Bridge.
This incident he said is but a single event in a series of infrastructural failures “which include the wharves/stellings and river defences at Charity, Supenaam, and Kumaka, the breaking down of Transport & Harbour sDepartment (T&HD) ferries and the poorly constructed roads and bridges which in some cases cause loss of life.”
According to Harmon, these are but a few “glaring examples of failure to plan and execute appropriate public works to maintain and provide safe and adequate infrastructure to enable citizens to go about their business.”
Harmon stresses that “Some of these works are either not undertaken in a timely manner or are shoddily executed time and again.”
He concedes that while it is true to say that there is increased stress on the physical resources and old infrastructure by new patterns of rainfall and other social developments, there seems to be little or no proper scientific basis for many decisions made.
“In fact, one is forced to conclude that in some instances these works are undertaken to provide work for the privileged and well connected contractors.”
According to Harmon, the Public Works Ministry has consistently failed, and continues to fail, to adequately address and/or mitigate the factors.
“The works have been characterized by post facto explanations of design faults and so on…Who is responsible for these gross and increasingly frequent failures?”
He says that the nation should be mindful of the stress and trauma that any of “these accidents or infrastructural failures and inadequacies engender on the public, particularly for those who have to use these services daily.”
According to Harmon “I therefore signal the intent of APNU to hold a series of public hearings throughout Guyana and to invite citizens to speak to issues concerning public infrastructure.”
Normalcy has resumed on the Demerara Harbour Bridge with heavy trucks and other large vehicles being allowed to start traversing on July 26.
This would have been three days after a section on the western end dramatically collapsed, leaving thousands of commuters stranded and a chaotic situation on both banks of the Demerara River.
Two temporary pontoons had become submerged shortly after the bridge reopened on the Monday morning and it caused the two westernmost spans to buckle at its connections and to be partially covered by river water.
A minibus filled with passengers was caught on one of the spans.
However, the panicked driver who abandoned the vehicle managed to return and help a few of the passengers out.
The vehicle was safely removed.
It was a traffic nightmare also as workers and others rushed to the Vreed-en-Hoop speedboat stelling on the West Bank. Emergency measures had to be put in place to allow for the speedboats to operate at night to cater for the crowd.
Several farmers in their trucks were caught with the perishables and there were reportedly significant losses suffered by some.
The structure was commissioned in 1978 and given a 20 years lifespan, it is the main link between Essequibo and West Demerara to the capital city, Georgetown.
Public Works Minister Robeson Benn recently in Parliament declared that despite the recent hiccup, the bridge is in its best condition over its 34 years of existence.