‘Bigger and Better’ is the name of the game for the 45-year-old Demerara Harbour Bridge’s new ‘Span Nine,’ which will accommodate the passage of larger ships. The new span will now retract from 54 meters to 70 meters. The 1.15 miles long floating bridge with 61 spans supported by 114 floating pontoons, was commissioned on 2nd July 1978 and was the longest floating bridge in the world then. Today it is ranked as number four. It is a crucial and critical link between Georgetown, Berbice, Cheddie Jagan Int. Airport, Linden, the hinterland and the West side of Demerara, networking with Essequibo and the islands. On average, some 17,000 vehicles traverse daily. Initially designed to enjoy a life span of ten years only (others claim twice the amount), it has outlived and out lasted the useful years and continues to limp along to provide a much-needed service.
During the PPP/C Party’s former governance, then Public Works Minister Benn in 2014 had submitted a proposal for a new bridge to be built. Had the PNC Government followed through with that plan when they came into office in 2015, Guyanese would have been enjoying a new bridge already. But their hindsight and selfish reasons, caused Guyanese to be suffering the agony of the current dilemma! Guyanese need to be reminded of the PNC’s breaches in procurement due to “unsolicited proposals,” which delayed those plans. Auditor General Deodat Sharma had flagged many breaches of Guyana’s financial laws. Once again, it is the PPP/C Government which has to correct another PNC’s shortcoming! A new bridge is on its way!
During the shutdown from midnight Monday 24th July to Thursday 27th evening, a carefully well managed team under the auspices of Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips, Public Works Minister Bishop Juan Edghill, Minister Deodat Indar, Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn and a group of devoted and dedicated men and women, diligently and dependably managed the supervision of a well-executed plan to complete the replacement exercise, hours ahead of the scheduled time. Perhaps, it shines as some sort of record in the annals of the history of the bridge.
All should be highly commended and accept a salute. Apart from an accident-free period, safety and security played a pivotal part in this exercise. It was heartening to see police officers from the very high ranks themselves engaged in administering traffic regulations along with their support staff on both sides of the Demerara River. Inclusive also were officers from the Fire Service. All the anticipated hurdles failed to materialize as bottle necks due to the diligence and expedience of the planning committee. Commuters were relieved to experience a trouble-free three days shut down of the bridge.
Several instituted changes contributed to the smooth flow of traffic, avoiding any chaos and confusion or any large gathering of crowds waiting to join the water taxies. To begin, many police officers were assigned duties to help direct traffic from the junction at Vreed-en-Hoop all the way to the stelling. They ensured that all vehicles kept a constant flow so that drivers were not allowed to back up traffic. Also, there were adequate officers on the wharf itself to control passengers embarking and disembarking in an orderly manner and to keep moving. There was no jumbling or fumbling with passengers! Those joining the boats to go to Georgetown were kept on the right-hand side and those arriving from Georgetown were kept separately on the left-hand side.
A similar exercise was conducted at the Georgetown end. The placement of barriers facilitated passengers staying on their exit and entrance pathways. Passengers were gently but firmly ushered in their respective directions with the help of friendly police officers. There were no vehicles to block or impede traffic. Vehicles along with vendors were kept at a safe distance in order to allow passengers to move along quickly and not at a snail’s pace. In particular, vendors had their stalls on one side of the street leading all the way to the eastern junction.
We have witnessed how Guyanese can cooperate to help in a challenging situation and abide with instructions when instituted by the relevant authorities. The question is, is it only in a given situation that Guyanese will behave accordingly, or is it only in the presence of the law will Guyanese abide with requests or orders? Will Guyanese not comply by using their initiative and do what is right and avoid what is wrong? Do these sociological enquiries question the cultural behavior of Guyanese or their temperament or their intellect? Is it a case where a precedent was created and now it’s taken for granted that, that behavior is the norm?
The Stabroek Market has always been a sore sight and point. It is an issue where many dodge the bullet. The hectic scene has multiplied in commotion and compounded the problems as the years go by. From a dilapidated infrastructure to a criminal environment, the ambience has developed into a health risk with garbage littering the pavements and inside the market itself, while overflowing with carefree vendors and customers unconcerned with the pride of civil and civic responsibility. This is not a name blaming game but it’s obvious that the perpetual problems grew and generated with the mayor’s office and their lackadaisical attitude and/or their refusal to grab the bull by its horn!
Hopefully, the current mayor will cut the bull out and attend to and amend his predecessors’ follies by making Georgetown the garden city again from a garbage city. Also, those changes implemented around Georgetown Stelling during the shutdown period, should become permanent changes. Will the Mayor step up to the plate, or, will the PPP/C Government be the default rescuer once again?