A better life: Conservancy Dam residents happy for first-time potable water

A DPI Feature
“We used to had to fetch water all the way up deh to wash out the wares … sometimes whole day you gah fetch.” 

Stretching approximately two miles long, residents regard Conservancy Dam as a peaceful community. On quiet days, it is a sanctuary for birds, with a swimming pool for children and a fishing pond for men. On busy days, it is a hive of activity with persons making waves in speedboats and on jet skis on the conservancy.

It takes a pair of skilful feet to reach Conservancy Dam, which is the last community in Canal Number One Polder. The community begins where the paved road ends and parallels the West Demerara Water Conservancy.

A budding farming hub, Conservancy Dam is home to over 500 residents. Some of them have lived on the Government reserve for decades, some without electricity or potable water.

A lucky few were connected to the electricity grid some years back. They also received water through lines running from the conservancy to assist with their daily activities. This lessened the challenge to access water during the rainy season, but the hardship remained during the dry season.

“When we get dry weather here, every year we don’t get water and we does gatta go and beg neighbour for a bucket of water and sometimes they don’t want you in their yard an suh,” Seeta Sookram told DPI, over a bite of her barfi, an Indian sweet made from condensed milk.

“We used to use fuh drink, cook, clean, everything because remember, everybody can’t buy a bottle of water two time/three time for a week…You does gotta spend almost $3,000 a week for water,” she said.

Seeta has been living on the dam for more than 25 years with her husband and two sons. She operates a small shop in the community selling homemade and manufactured snacks and other items.

Vegetable farmer Kawalpattie Mohan says she depends on water for her livelihood. She sells garden-fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and boulanger on a small, wooden table in her yard. The woman said she needs clean water to “sprinkle” her vegetables to seal in their freshness while they remain on her make-shift stall.

For Roy Khan getting water goes beyond asking a neighbour like Seeta for a bucketful; it entails hard labour.

“We used to had to fetch water all the way up deh to wash out the wares and suh or you gah bring it down fuh use the black water all pon the road deh, sometimes whole day you gah fetch,” Roy said, gesturing at his elevated house and the conservancy.

Upon visiting the community in August 2020, President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali saw the residents’ need and heeded their call for assistance.

Minister of Housing and Water Hon. Collin Croal and Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Hon. Deodat Indar were dispatched to meet the residents.  On August 25, the Ministers promised residents immediate relief and in September they were able to benefit from potable water and electricity.

“We worked through the Ministry to ensure that these services were installed. It’s approximately 42 services and the beneficiaries are somewhere around 300 […] They’re quite a number of children living in the area and that’s what pushed us to ensure that we get the services installed,” Dwayne Shako, Director of Operations at the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) said.

The intervention was made through Government, in partnership with Gaico Construction and General Services Incorporated, which helped the GWI to streamline the services.

Roy praised the initiative, saying it has made it easier for him to care for his young children.  “[Things] far way better now because remember they small now too and the [conservancy] water sometimes, when it get too low get brown, like mud water. It does give them lil sick and thing so it better for them now,” he said.

Roy invited DPI into his home and excitedly explained that the pressure was good and water reached into his kitchen.   In addition to cooking, he said, the GWI line provides a second option for washing and it is a suitable drinking source once treated.

“The water service is alright,” Kawalpattie said. “Everything is okay. […] We ah use it fuh bathe, wash, use it one-one-time fuh cook and yuh got the rain water we does use [too].”

Seeta is also pleased with the water pressure. She took DPI into the kitchen of her elevated home to show it flowing from the faucet.  “We thankful for it, really grateful. The water pressure is very good, because I get over my house it very, very good and thanks to the GWI people them, they did a good work,” she said.

With continuous development in mind, residents are now hopeful to see the realisation of a paved road, as promised by President Ali.

Still contented with their secluded and tranquil hamlet, life continues peacefully, with the joyful noises of children, occasional birdsong and the picturesque view of palm trees lining the opposite end of the conservancy.