FEATURE – Govt accelerates hinterland development
─ over $48BILLION invested in hinterland infrastructure
DPI, Guyana, Thursday, September 12, 2019
Imagine travelling by road, from Georgetown to the one million acres of a pristine rain forest, to Guyana’s gift to the world – Iwokrama, to small developing Indigenous communities in Region’s 8 and 9. It is without a doubt that proper infrastructure is crucial to bridging the gap between Guyana’s hinterland and coastal communities. Indeed, the absence of this vital infrastructure has seen decades of stymied hinterland growth and development.
A situation the Coalition Government is addressing.
Road networks will, for example, facilitate immediate and more effortless movement of perishable produce to marketplaces within immediate areas and even those further – to coastal markets, where they can compete at fair prices. It will also allow for a quicker response for medical attention and other exchanges amongst villages.
During a recent outreach in Region 9, Member of Parliament (MP), Hon. Mervyn Williams announced that between 2015 to 2019, the government has spent $48Billion on expanding, maintaining and constructing roads and bridges in the hinterland. In 2019, $38.5Billion was approved to continue this process.
These investments can be seen when one enters the newly established towns of Mabaruma Bartica, Mahdia and Lethem which now boasts concrete and asphalt roads. In fact, in Mahdia and Region 8 alone, $1Billion was invested in internal road networks. In Bartica, Region 7, $126M was spent on the Issano road and $303M on the Mile 33 to Mile 52 Bartica-Potaro road. The town of Lethem is being paved at the cost of over $200M.
The $80M Manari bypass in Region 9 was commissioned in April of this year. This area had been a sore subject for many who lost friends and loved ones on what use to be a ‘dangerous turn’.
A $200M contract was also signed for the construction of a bypass road directly linking the North to Central Rupunini. Last year, $650M was expended on road works on the Rockstone-Mabura Kurupukari-Annai-Lethem and the Linden-Ituni-Kwakwani roads.
Approximately $109M was spent to construct a roadway in the Region 1 communities of Wanaina to Wauna. Edward Ramsammy, a 75-year-old pensioner and subsistence farmer lauded the roadway which was done after 25 years.
“Nothing used to run here, but today everything running here,” Edward exclaimed. According to the elderly gentleman, having a properly constructed road is necessary since it makes his journey to uplift his pension hassle-free. “I feel so happy because it’s easier for me now to walk out from here to the bus-shed to catch a bus.”
Under this government, there has been increased maintenance of 350km (217 miles) of major access roads and bridges in remote communities, including the Linden-Lethem highway and smaller roads in areas such as Amokokopai-Phillipai (Region 9) and St. Denny’s-Tapakuma (Region 2).
“The APNU+AFC Government is committed to the linking of the hinterland to the coastal area and has given full support to its realisation since our succession to Office – this is in keeping with the promise in our 2015 Manifesto. An improved road network is vital for the extractive industry as well as our Eco-Tourism industry,” Minister of Public Infrastructure, Hon. David Patterson had said.
Over in Moruca, a $119M modern concrete bridge was constructed to bring relief to 10,000 residents. Philomena Torres, a vendor whose clothing shop is located just off the approach of the bridge, said that the residents suffered for 23 years with the wooden bridge; as they were forced to walk through muddy water during the rainy season and high tides.
“Just crossing the old bridge, my daughter got a big scar from a bottle, and plenty people fall from that [bridge]. We also did a lot of self-help repairs on that bridge; and now in just three years, we have a stronger bridge, and I know it will last longer.”
At Wakapou, Region 2, a $19M bridge was built to link the islands of Myrie and Borada.
At Papaya, Region 1, a $13.5M timber bridge was constructed to allow for better access to Baramita, Matthews Ridge, Arakaka, Port Kaituma and Fives Star; and a new reinforced concrete bridge at Barabina at the cost of $13.4M. Other bridges constructed and rehabilitated include; Cassandra Crossing and Sand Creek, Aishalton, Baishaidrun, Paruima, Hosororo, and Arocuro.
Through the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, bridges were upgraded in Surama ($4M), Sand Creek catwalk ($1M), Wakapao ($1M), Kangaruma ($4M) and Kwatamang ($1M).
In addition to the upgrades of roads and bridges, proper maintenance of airstrips also forms part of the Coalition’s hinterland development agenda.
A total of 57 airstrips have been upgraded and constructed. These include Baramita, Mabaruma, Port Kaituma, Bimechi, Mahdia, Kamarang, Monkey Mountain, Kato Eteringbang and Kurupung. This year, $2Billion was approved for additional upgrades and the installation of lights along with other safety features. The Lethem Airport will also be transformed as an international hub to the tune of $834M.
According to MP Williams, the intention is to connect hinterland Guyana to the coast, where all Guyanese will benefit equally from opportunities, and all will share equitably in the ‘nationally pie’.
“The government is on a mission that speaks of the development of hinterland Guyana. A mission that speaks to the improvement of the quality of life for the Indigenous and hinterland residents of Guyana; putting all of us on equal footing with the Capital City [Georgetown]. There will be no distinction, except the natural environment, our languages, customs and practices, we will enjoy the same benefits as the Capital City.” – MP Mervyn Williams