Parika Back residents still not able to access potable water

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By Lakhram Bhagirat

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that just over 700 million people are without access to potable water, making them more prone to contracting waterborne diseases.

In the Parika Back, East Bank Essequibo (EBE) area, access to potable water seems to the root of a number of hardships for residents there. The residents there have been without access to water for years now and despite having all the infrastructure, they are yet to receive connections from the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI).

The canal which the residents use for washing and cleaning

The residents are contending that GWI laid pipes in the community over three years ago but for some reason, the water body did not complete the project. GWI stopped the project at the Parika Back Primary School and residents living beyond that area were not given a reason why they cannot have access to the potable water.

“I am hoping that we get the water. Them ah keep promise you steady, steady and nothing coming down as yet…then do half of the area and block off the other half and a tell we to go apply. Plenty people done apply long time now and nothing nah happen,” the father stated.However, even the residents who have access to water lines are experiencing issues with very little relief by GWI.

Surendra Persaud has been living in the Parika Back area for 35 years now and all his life he has been hearing of promises to get them water. Over two years ago he felt as though their issues would be addressed with the promise of potable water access. Persaud and a lot of the residents there signed up to access water when they saw water lines being put down.

However, to date they have not heard anything else, rather they have more questions than answers.

Persaud, like many of the Parika Back residents, would use water from the main drainage canal to do the washing and cleaning while rainwater would be used for cooking. The families also would spend thousands of dollars on bottled water for drinking and cooking – whenever the rainwater runs out.

A five-gallon bottle of water in the Parika Back area amounts to $560 and the father of one said his family utilises 2 of those bottles per week.

Persaud’s neighbour, Rehanna, has been living there for about 30 years now. She is a mother to five children and for her, raising her children without access to potable water has put immense strain on the family. She explained that her husband is a farmer and having to constantly buy water to cook and drink adds to her financial burdens.

“It hard fuh we. We nah get the water and we does got to use trench water. I does use that (trench) water to bathe and cook and so and we does buy water to cook and when we get the rainwater we does use that…We just hoping them can bring down this water so we can get proper service,” she said.

Another resident, Mukesh Inderdat, has spent his entire life in the area. The 32-year-old said that he would be overjoyed if they could at least get access to the water since they already have good roads and access to electricity.

He sees the water as an important need of the community since according to him, it is essential for everyone’s health that they have access to potable water.

“Some people been come around and we put our name down fuh apply for it and we never get no answer… I will be happy for the water in here so it will be easier for the residents in the community, it will be befitting…we been put up a standpipe for the community – we pay $10,000 to get that and them put it down but the water never come through,” Inderdat said.

The man said that he does not use the water from the canal that everyone in the area uses since he feels it is much more unsafe. He, like many others in the community, is a farmer and he uses his farming knowledge to transport water from the irrigation canal at the back of his farms – some 100 rods away from his home – utilising a series of pipes and a commercial water pump.

However, he noted that there are also challenges with accessing that water because of the fact that the water level in the canal is dependent on the rice farmers’ needs.

“When the road build them been open it but they never say why. I thought this water would have come straight down but I don’t know why them stop at the front there,” he said.

Salima Ali and her husband Thakoor Persaud moved from Wales, West Bank Demerara (WBD), to the Parika Back area about five years ago. When they first moved there, they asked about the water but got no answers.

They related that the end of the pipelines is at the front of their home but none of their neighbours has water access. The family has now built, like many residents in the area, a ghat (a platform on the edge of the water) that they use to access water from the canal.

One of the many ghats the residents use to access water from the canal

“As you can see, we nah get no water in the trench also in the backdam for the farming. We have no pipe in here. I get fuh understand it get the pipe end by the culvert over that side and them nah tell we what and why we nah get water. When rain nah fall abedese does got to go till to the school fuh full water,” Ali told Guyana Times.

Substandard service

Lako Ganesh has been living in the Parika Back area for over 56 years and related that he was excited when they first got access to water for the first time almost four years ago. For the first few months, the water supply was steady but for the past three years, they have been experiencing irregular supply.

“Some time the water come and some time you nah get it whole month and although you nah get it fuh whole month you still got to pay water bill. Because me get meter and me nah know what it ah read because when you check on the bill them ah tell you that you owe money from the bill,” Ganesh said. The man complained that for the years he has been paying excessive sums of monies for water he never receives. He explained that for the month of August, he had to pay $2000 in water bills even though he did not get water for weeks.

In addition to not getting water, the residents there experience substandard quality of water. They complained that the water would come “muddy and rusty”. Also, the water pressure is another issue.

“Some time this water ah come clean, some time it a come with share mud. It means to me that when them hook um up in Hubu, the Hubu one ah come with share mud and when them hook um up in Vergenoegen, the Vergenogen one ah come clean. Nobody, don’t come check in with we here. We a complain every time at the water place at Parika,” Ganesh related.

He also expressed concern over the fact that half of his community is underserved while the other half deals with poor supply.

Ganesh and his brother Rajesh live exactly where the water cuts off.

Rajesh had his connection just over a year ago and in that time if he received an accumulated two months of water supply, then according to him, that is a lot.
“Some time when you check you nah get water for nearly two three months in between and when you get it one day you nah get it back and is a very exhausting thing. You got to pay $1000-2000 ah month fuh water and the water nah come good,” the upset man related.

He, unlike his brother, does not have a metered connection so his water bill is a fixed $2000 per month. However, for the last few months, he has not paid any of his bills.

“When you do get the lil bit water, you got to full up the tank them. The pump what me get can’t even pull the water to carry it up to the tank because how the pressure low and then the water ah come muddy, rusty and you a complain several time to Parika outlet and you nah get no response. Me nah pay for the last four or five months because it don’t make sense because you nah get the water so what yuh go pay for,” Rajesh explained.

A resident has taken the drastic step to commence building a well in the area. It is unclear if it is for personal purposes or if he will provide access to his neighbours.

The well one of the residents is constructing

Meanwhile, GWI Chief Executive Officer Shaik Baksh had visited the area and interacted with the residents. He committed to addressing the issues and noted that GWI will be reviewing the water distribution system.

Additionally, an analysis of the network is currently being undertaken with the aim of improving the production capacity of wells and the Vergenogen water treatment plant, as well as re-aligning the water distribution system.

The WHO says that climate change, increasing water scarcity, population growth, demographic changes and urbanisation already pose challenges for water supply systems. By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.