The “Strapped-for-cash” City Council is checking its coffers and is already worried that it
will not be able to bear the financial cost of having to remove the covers which are expected to cover city canals to permit increased parking space.
The Council, in a public missive, expressed concern that they were not consulted in the talks to cover the city canals even though they have the responsibility of maintaining Georgetown. The Council said it is worried about the financial, health and other implications that may come with the covering of the waterways.
“The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) was not consulted on this proposal… This is worrying because the Mayor and Councillors are the people’s representatives. They should be properly informed and involved in any major project, such as the one announced, to add or take away value from the economy and general welfare of the city.”
Covering canals, they said, to provide additional space to facilitate parking is both adding and taking from the city value. However, the Council merely heard the announcement in the local media but has no other information about timeframes, objectives, engineering and technical logistics, and related risks and benefits to the citizens of Georgetown, it was stated.
If the justification to cover main canals in the city is to facilitate parking of vehicles because they are being imported at a fast rate in the country, then it has to be said that it is a very simplistic way of looking at an emerging issue that requires more in-depth study and general consultations with all stakeholders.
“Covering canals could not be the solution to the problem of parking; it will trigger other issues.”
It was mentioned further that covering the canals has serious financial implications for the Georgetown Municipality. “Council will have to remove and replace these covers every time it wants to clean the canals. Therefore, the cash- strapped council will be required to find more money to clean and keep these waterways flowing.”
The Council said that if one thinks of the agency’s shallow coffers which hardly provides basic services to the citizens, it can be easily seen the extra burden the agency will be saddled with if the initiative is to go through.
The Council said that the covering of the canals has serious implications for solid waste management.
“Some time ago, council experimented with this very approach to parking on South Street. What city officials discovered, at that time, was that individuals were removing the covers to dump waste in the canals. This affected the free flow of water through these channels. Eventually, the council had to remove these covers; that approach did not work.”
They expressed more concern about the actual parking of vehicles over its canals, the utilization of space, in the city, and revenue. “If parking over these canals is free then who will stand the expenses associated with it. If it is paid parking then who will be responsible for collecting that revenue?”
“Such an initiative must be accompanied by a public education programme. This will allow citizens to adjust to this new arrangement, in the city. After all, these facilities are collectively owned by the people and they and their representatives should be allowed to participate in this initiative, from the planning stage to its implementation.”
Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon explained last week that the government had taken a decision to try out the initiative forwarded by current Housing Minister Irfaan Ali to cover the city canals for parking. Several stakeholders have already expressed concern of the plans while other persons believe it will ease the parking issues facing the city. The government will first engage in trials at the Avenue-of-the-Republic canal and the Croal Street and South Road waterway.
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