The plan to cover over some of the main canals in the city so as cater for additional parking should be reconsidered. The covering over of the canals will not solve the parking problems of the city; there are also far better alternatives available.
In this column, I will provide some reasons why I believe this plan to roof the canals of the city should be abandoned. I will also in my column next week indicate alternative measures which may be considered to help control traffic and parking in the city since the two are inherently related.
The first reason why I believe the plan to cover over the canals should be abandoned is because it will destroy the essential character of Georgetown. The Capital City has always been known for the grid-like arrangements of its streets, for its wooden buildings and for its long canals. To cover over these canals will destroy an essential character of the city and make it unappealing and unattractive.
Such a move to cover over the canals also goes against the ongoing plans for the restoration of the city. There is in place a plan for the restoration of the city and this plan includes retaining and increasing green areas. This is one of the reasons why the lot opposite Parliament Building was developed into a mini-park/ garden. This lot, which previously housed the Statistical Bureau, was ideally suited for a parking lot for Parliamentarians and court officers. But in order to reclaim the aesthetics of the city, it was instead developed to a mini park. The plan to cover over the main city canals makes a mockery of the attempts being made to reclaim the traditional aesthetics of the city.
The canals of the city drain flood waters into the Demerara River. But they also serve another important purpose. They are reservoirs to store water for fire-fighting purposes. If you cover over the canals it will pose problems for the firefighting capabilities of the Fire Service because they depend on these canals for water in the event of a fire. Without these canals, fires would not be able to be contained.
The third reason for not covering over the canals is the prohibitive costs that will be involved. I do not know how exactly these canals are going to be covered over but what I do know is that it is not going to be cheap whatever method is used. The cost is going to stretch into hundreds of millions of dollars. That money could be better used to find an alternative to the traffic congestion in the city.
The fourth reason for not going ahead with the plan to cover the canals is that motorists will be very circumspect about parking their vehicles over a canal. They will worry as to what would happen if the supports of the cover give way.
The fifth reason is that vendors will compete with motorists for rights to be on these parking areas. The canal covers will encourage another invasion by vendors who contribute in no small way to the shortage of parking lots. Today there are mobile caravans which take up the limited parking available in the city. There are vendors with stands who do the same. There are vendors also who are now using converted vehicles as moving shops. There is, for example, a parking lot near to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and that lot is now occupied by a number of converted vehicles selling food, thereby limiting the number of spaces available for persons visiting patients in the hospital. Covering over the canals will worsen the vending problem and this will add rather than relieve the parking woes of the city.
Sixthly, if a calculation is done, I do not believe that the total number of additional parking lots created by covering over the canals will appreciably reduce the demand for parking in the city. The demand is way too great.
A better strategy has to be developed, one that accepts that the volume of traffic is too great for such a small city, and that what is needed is for a reduction in this volume rather than trying to meet this demand which is increasing every day.
In next week’s column I will offer some alternatives. But in the meantime, I end by asking whatever happened to the traffic plan to divide Georgetown into four grids. This plan was supposed to have been implemented since April of this year.
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