We are certainly pleased with the allocation of $30 million for the Linden Riverfront Development by the Ministry of Public Works, as recently reported.
It should be noted that while the investment is in response representations made to the Ministry over the last several years, and recently, as the 2021 budget was being prepared, it was not designated to any specific project.
Linden Riverfront Development is critical to the development of Linden and has engaged the interest and attention of the community for the past 15 years. It is felt that the development of the Linden Riverfront will be a primary driver of overall development of Linden; it will address, among other issues, waste management, enhancement of port facilities, promotion of tourism, improvement of drainage and reduction of flooding, and recreation.
The Linden Riverfront Festival mentioned by Minister Edghill was created to brand and promote the development of the Linden Riverfront. The Linden Riverfront Development Forum, an essential feature of the festival, promotes the awareness of the importance of riverfronts in Guyana and specifically Linden. This forum has been attended by the Mayors of Riverfront towns and communities, including Georgetown, Bartica, New Amsterdam, and Corriverton. The Linden Riverfront Development Task Force is a product of deliberations at the Forum.
There is no national strategy or policy on riverfront development.
The representations made to the Ministry and other Government agencies, including the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Local Government/Communities and the Ministry of Trade/Tourism was guided by the draft goals and objectives for the Linden Riverfront Development. These include; access along the riverfront, enhancement and use of historical monuments, economic access and opportunity at all levels, a working riverfront and improved port facilities, environmental stewardship, and private/public sector alliance.
It is projected that an initial investment of a least $500 million over 5 years is required to kick-start and sustain the Linden Riverfront Development and build on the historical $100 million invested through the LEAP Programme. A Linden Riverfront Development Master Plan (LRDMP) is needed to effectively guide and focus the development of the Linden Riverfront. This is the part of the recent representations/requests made to both the Ministries of Public Works and Finance.
The $30 million investment was initially reported to Linden Stakeholders in a consultation led by the Design Engineers in June 2021. Two projects/locations were subsequently identified: the Coop Crescent and the Wismar market Area/Warf on the Eastern and Western Shores, respectively. The Ministry’s Design Engineers did the requisite investigations and were scheduled to provide their findings and draft designs.
The $30 million is grossly inadequate and will require additional investments in 2022 to complete either of the locations. Ideally the initial investment should have been about $150 million. That amount would facilitate the completion of the 2021 programme and initiate the preparation of the LRDMP.
Minister Edghill asserted that the funds should be spent where it would have the greatest immediate impact. However, the Minister brings an uninformed perspective on Linden and a lack of awareness of the tenets of riverfront development, as indicated by the areas he proposed for investment of the $30 million, and his lack of commitment to a multi-year programme.
Minister Edghilll asserted in last Friday’s meeting that capacity building was not his focus. This is unfortunate because the LM&TC’s inability to address waste management, traffic, and manage the current activities along the Riverfront deters use of the Riverfront and reduces the potential impact on community wellbeing and health.
The preparation of the proposed LRDMP is critical; it would enhance community cohesion, allow the consideration various ideas for riverfront development, and provide the basis for long term funding and engagement.