Sanitation in Guyana
Despite Guyana having the image of being a land of many waters, the country underfunds and underregulates its litter, sewer and waste management, thus compromising sanitation in Guyana. The country, however, shows excellent foundations for sanitary progress with controlled landfills, water and sewer improvements.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Guyana

  1. Underfunded Waste Management: Foundations for Guyana’s Solid Waste Management exist within The Municipal and District Councils Act as it designates the maintenance of sanitary services, including the removal and destruction of trash to the Mayor and City Council. Likewise, individuals must appropriately dispose of trash in receptacles. However, services remain underfunded due to inadequate tax collection. For example, in Georgetown (Region Four) and Linden (Region 10), the collection is respectfully at 70 and 20 percent. Thus, waste collection and transportation are constrained, resulting in irregular pickups.

  2. Unregulated Waste Management: National and regional regulations exist for sanitation, like penalties for illegal littering and dumping at G$5,000-$20,000. However, the Ministry of Health, municipalities, the police force and the EPA follow through on monitoring and enforcement duties at a minimal level. For example, due to a lack of sensitization in waste management, police refuse to see littering as a real issue.

  3. Littering Increases Plastic in Waterways: Littering and dumping persist due to minimal monitoring and enforcement. Data from a 2018 study focused on Guyana’s coastal regions, including Corriverton, 63 Beach, Rossignol, Mahaicony and Georgetown. It indicated that the highest concentration of litter including plastic bags, bottles and fragments was at 48.2 percent. Combined with an underfunded and unregulated waste management system and the forecasted Guyanese waste generation of 0.77 kilograms per person a day by 2024, non-biodegradables in waterways will continue to increase, resulting in blocked drains and exacerbating flooding.

  4. Sewage Access and Wastewater Management: Only 13 percent of the Guyanese population, mostly within the main Georgetown area, have access to modern sewage of flushable toilets, septic tanks, latrines or compostable toilets. As a result, untreated waste contaminates already flooding waters as both the Georgetown and Tucville sewage systems release untreated waste into the Demerara River and Laing Canal, compromising sanitation in Guyana.

  5. Disease from Disposal and Flooding: Due to litter and untreated sewage, flies, rodents and mosquitoes spread deadly diseases including typhoid, cholera, dysentery, leptospirosis, dengue, yellow fever, malaria and filariasis. On the other hand, contaminated water spreads diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, gastroenteritis and dysentery. For example, from 1996 to 1998, gastroenteritis deaths increased from 2,200 to 8,604. However, the country shows excellent improvement given that although such diarrheal diseases ranked number two for causes of death in Guyana at 8.9 percent in 1990, and that by 2010 it was number 12 at 2.9 percent of total deaths.

  6. Contaminated Water: Drinking water contamination is mostly due to improperly disposed of waste, including household, animal, agricultural, industrial, chemical and untreated sewage. Despite water contamination, safe drinking water is more accessible than previously. In 1994, only 88 percent of the population had such access as opposed to 98.3 percent in 2015. Such success is in part due to initiatives like the 2008 Turn Around Plan with Guyana Water Inc (GWI), that completed the rehabilitation of 100 kilometers of networked pipes and 24 Tucville sewer pumping stations. To further TAPs’ success, the 2012-2016 Water and Sanitation Strategic Plan increased Hinterland water coverage to about 80 percent, treated water coverage to 50 percent and invested $1.5 billion in new meters, pumps, motors and panels.

  7. Legal Disposal in EPA Landfills: While illegal methods of disposal threaten sanitation in Guyana, legal methods exist as a remedy. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency approved controlled dumping sites in at least six out of 10 regions because it intends to protect the environment from contaminants in the disposed waste.

  8. Improved Sewage in Georgetown: Local systems in Stevedore Postal Housing Scheme, Wortmanville, Werk-en-Rust and Albouystown to Queenstown received maintenance thanks to aid from GWI in 2016. For instance, the organization invested a part of its G$80 million capital to reduce blockages that illegal dumping caused.

  9. Upgraded Sanitary Facilities Outside of Georgetown: In 2016, loans from the Caribbean Investment Facility of EUR$10.6 million and the Inter American Development Bank of $16.8 million aided in The Water Supply And Sanitation Infrastructure Improvements Project of upgrading sanitary facilities. About 1,000 families across Georgetown and outer areas of Cornelia Ida, DeKendren, West Coast Demerara, Diamond, Herstelling, East Bank, Demerara, No. 19 Village Corentyne, Sheet Anchor, Good Bananen Land, East Canje and Berbice benefitted from Sanitary upgrades, signifying an important step as only 13 percent of the population had access to sanitary services before.

  10. GWI Sustainable Development Goal: GWI seeks sustainable water and sanitation management by 2030. Thanks to the loans this article discussed above, the free installation of 335 septic tanks in September 2019 should ensure that progress. The initiative favored those of low economic standing, including single mothers, teen girls, elderly and disabled, thus providing these demographics with an important human right.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Guyana show that it is on a progressive path. Developments such as legal disposal, improved sewage and sanitary facilities, eradicate water contamination and instead allow for Guyana to work on being the land of abundant clean water.

– Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr