April 20, 2014

Mixed reactions to new seawall hangout spot

By Vahnu Manikchand

The ghostly spot on the seawall opposite Sheriff Street, which is usually jam-packed with persons on Sundays

The ghostly spot on the seawall opposite Sheriff Street, which is usually jam-packed with persons on Sundays

Vendors and Sunday limers are divided over the new location for their Sunday night hangout on the Georgetown sea wall after a ban was imposed on liming along the notorious Russian embassy to the Shell Gas Station stretch.

When Guyana Times visited the sea wall around 17:00h on Sunday, there were a mere 20 or so persons scattered along the wall, which would usually be jam packed at that time. This publication also caught up with several persons, who conveyed their views on the ban. Bobby Budhram, who was with his family at the sea wall on Sunday afternoon, said the lime should not have been banned.

Litter

“What they should have done is put measures in place to reduce the litter.” He added that after a hard week of work, persons would want to go out and relax, noting that there is nothing much to do.

The Public Works Ministry in a notice stated that the “Sunday Night Lime” between Vlissengen Road and the Ocean View International Hotel is banned. The ministry said recreational and vending activities would no longer be allowed there.  The ban was effective from Sunday, May 5 and persons were advised that their lime can be moved to the sea wall from Vlissengen Road to Kingston.

According to a media notice, the ministry’s action is due to concerns about the erosion of the embankment and buildup of garbage along that area.

“This prohibition is as a result of damage to the sea defence infrastructure, excessive buildup of garbage in the drains and canals leading to flooding, and the increasing traffic congestion and its related safety risks, especially on Sundays and holidays,” the notice stated.

The ministry further stated: “It is proposed to relocate all the vendors (inclusive of mobile units, drink carts, hot dog stands, etc) to the section of the seawall embankment between Camp Street and Vlissengen Road, where an initial three-month permit will be issued for vending”.

The Works Ministry also announced intentions of making the East Coast roadway between  Camp Road to Vlissengen Road a one-way heading east, adding that street lights will be installed along that road and the southern half of the road will be cleaned to facilitate parking. A meeting with the vendors will be held on May 8 at the ministry’s office at Fort Street, Kingston, to discuss issues relating to the relocation.

Alex Payne and a friend were discussing the ban when Guyana Times caught up with them. Payne noted that vendors are now faced with the tedious task of having to relocate to another spot, which will be like starting over again.  Vendor Thompson (only name given) is very upset with the changes. She felt that they should have been notified about the relocation in a better way while contending that the new area is very dangerous because there are hardly any lights.

Satisfaction

On the other hand, Adrian Cole, a stallholder, related that he is satisfied with the relocating, since the new location will be a more secure place as long as lights are installed as promised.  Several joggers also expressed their satisfaction over the relocation, noting that they are now able to run along the seawall without the distraction of the music and disturbing others.  On Sundays and holidays, scores of Guyanese would gather along that area to hang out and relax. Vendors would also be out with snacks, beverages and even some of the top fast food companies would cash in on the crowd.

Speaking at a news conference recently, Works Minister Robeson Benn explained that the Sunday lime usually causes a huge garbage pile-up which leads to clogging of the city’s drainage system.  The minister warned that the police will be called in if necessary to remove persons, because the embankment is being damaged. “It’s a big problem for us because we have to repair the embankment.” However, the minister noted that there has been a problem where persons would remove the cables of lights on the sea wall, at the same spot to which the ministry relocated the Sunday lime.

Despite this, Benn said efforts are being made to have the stolen cables replaced so that the area is provided with lights. In addition to that, Benn said certain areas will be identified for vendors and those who use the area will be encouraged to store their garbage in bags rather than toss them into the sea. He explained that the garbage prevents the smooth flow of water after high tides and heavy downpours in the drainage canals. He added that the matter cannot be fixed on a permanent basis as there is need to maintain the three- kilometre area that could help to prevent flooding in a similar situation.

This, he said, could cost government some $1.5 billion. “So it is not the kind of expenditure one envisages for a fairly highly unusual event for a fairly short section of the coast,” Benn stated. The works minister noted that certain long-term measures will be put in place, notably, the replanting of mangrove forest in areas where there is need to combat the rising sea levels. According to him, Subryanville and Liliendaal are two of the worst-affected areas during spring tide.

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