“The problem with Guyana’s infrastructure is there is no redundancy. So, there is always one road, one bridge, one transmission line… So, there is no redundancy…If one goes down, there is no backup. That is the problem with Guyana and its infrastructure,” says Junior Public Infrastructure Minister, Jaipaul Sharma.
The minister, during an interview on the National Communications Network (NCN)’s “Insight” live programme, said that the 36-hour closure of the Demerara Harbour Bridge puts this “problem” into focus.
Sharma said that when incidents occur that jeopardise the function of a single vital infrastructural component, alternatives must be sought, which often time leads to headaches and unsuitable replacements.
He spoke about the Vreed-en-Hoop and Georgetown Stelling serving as backup for the then- non-operational bridge, however, these ports can only serve as alternatives for some, not all commuters, as was observed during the shutting of the bridge.
Truck and canter operators, who were also severely affected, had no option of recourse since large vessels could not be deployed to the two facilities to transport vehicles across the river. This was mainly due to the fact that the Stellings are not equipped for such an arrangement. Also, the areas around the Stellings were not dredged and larger vessels and larger vessels would have been grounded on the mudflat.
Sharma said that there are plans to upgrade these facilities under a waterfront project, and though the project will be geared at beautifying the areas, serious thought needs to be put into how they can also be made operational to better offer support to the harbour bridge should a similar incident occur.
This line of thinking should not be exclusive to the existing infrastructure he said, but also works that will be implemented in time. With the government already in motion to fund the construction of a new Demerara River bridge, the administration should also think of installing alternative mechanisms to either support or to act as replacements for this new component, Sharma stated.
“Even with a new harbour bridge – a fixed bridge – we should also have other bridges. We don’t know what could happen…Example, people tend to take for granted the number of persons that utilise the harbour bridge, until something [bad] happens. So, it always good to have other systems in place,” the Minister said.
The Demerara Harbour Bridge was commissioned in 1978, the bridge company website states. Forty-one years later, it remains the only structure that can facilitate vehicular traffic to and from the western and eastern banks of the Demerara River.