Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What Choice Have We Really Got - 2

So there was a minor scare of sorts as apparently the country ran low on Petrol. I noticed the Shell Gas Station on Vissengen Road shut and it is sad to think I just assumed it got robbed!
Apparently there was a delay in uplifting fuel from the Venezuelan refineries.
So this is very interesting -- my cousin sniffed his nose and informed me that the fuel was poorer quality from the Government managed Petrol Stations but now we discover that all fuel-- Shell, Rubris (formerly Texaco) and the humble Guyoil all get their petrol from THE SAME PLACE!
My recent foray with economics says that for perfect competition to exist, the product must be the same --check; the buyers must be so informed --check; many sellers-- check; therefore the perfect price should exist - right-- nope-- the sellers organised themselves to jack up the prices so that the Government was forced to open and run Guyoil to sell about $22 cheaper to keep the prices down-- mind you better yet would be to turn a blind eye to fuel smuggling from Venezuela and get really serious competition for low fuel prices-- in the midst of all that is not working it would surely be better for the country to buy from people willing to sell across the border??

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why It's Exhausting To Live In Guyana -7

Because it makes you feel like a small insignificant piece of humanity who don't matter. My long-suffering mechanic woke up to find his yard flooded and having not invested in ramp that lifts the vehicle in the air or not having the space to construct a concrete ramp as the other out-of-town mechanics do, due to lack of space; his work ground to a halt.
City Hall apparently can't find the City Engineer's Plan for drainage and the Lands and Survey Department was equally unhelpful and advised him to check City Hall.  So basically the poor man is going around in a circle seeing that the other side of the street is not flooded and his side is!  Apparently there are drains/culverts but the guard to stop clutter from going in and blocking got removed-- either by those people paid to clean and never replaced or one of the numerous madmen on the road. So he has to shell out of his pocket to find someone to go and clear out the gunk (my friend in Canada says, Guyanese only run to fix the roof when it rains- my defence was that you only KNOW the roof is leaking when it rains!)
So the knowledge that the new wing of the Hospital has been built on some of the drains that were meant to drain his area does not help; neither that the current flooding of a few selected streets, mine included, is not due to overnight rainfall but rather the accumulation of water from other areas as this area of Cummingsburg is just before the final destination of the Demerara River. Most fustratingly, the Lamaha Canal isn't looking flooded/overtopped and apparently in 2005 after severe flooding of the City, a pump was installed which has since stopped working. So what's the solution? The super-rich, that is- not money earned through the formal economy, generally buy a property and raise their buildings about a foot from the road so it's not their immediate problem, the rest go line up for a visa out of here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What choice do we really have?

 So came across this list courtesy of Facebook:!prettyPhoto

..and it stuck me that we really have limited choices-- and what was the rationale for having Boxed Cake Mixes-- my pet peeve as it is so popular in Guyana and one of the highest in bad fats -- in Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, General Mills and Pillsbury all under the same umbrella? Did they start off as different companies, then were bought over and surely then it would be cheaper to have one large central producing factory-- considering the economy of scale and why bother to repackage in four different Brands? Same shit-- different box?
And why have Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine, giving a nod to healthy eating while promoting 'bad' eating with the rest of the companies? I remember asking the local trendy cafe down the road from my office to start doing fresh squeezed juices and was told Guyanese don't like the healthier options when I pointed out most things for sale had white refined sugar and flour-- the healthier options are not even available and apparently not profit making enough!
And the world-wide competition between Coca-Cola and Pepsi is what-- some executives playing a profit -making game with themselves to see how much sugared-water they can sell?
Sadly Guyanese are now heading to convenience foods - even down to the humble coconut milk as it seems housewives prefer to open a tin from Thailand with perservatives for $200 rather than buy a fresh one locally for $80 and go through the hassle of grating it-- I found the Juice extractor did a good job to save me grating my fingers but a bitch to clean the different parts.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Interesting views on Water

Caught the ending of this BBC radio program with the grim statistic that currently, 40% of people living in urban areas have no piped water to their accommodation

So for those of you too unable to listen to the half-hour discussion, here's a summary and some food for thought:
Currently 50% of the world's population live in urban areas, and with a projected further 2 billion people by the year 2050, the projected percent of the world's population living in urban areas is reckoned to rise to 75%.
Currently only 2.5% of the world's water is freshwater, of which 70%  is locked into the Arctic, Anarchic and mountainous areas, which is inaccessible for consumption and means that currently 40% of the world's population are living in a water-scarce area.
So to control/manage this resource, one can reduce Demand and/or increase Supply.

People begin to be antsy if they are the ones being controlled , so efficiency can be increased by controlling leakage-- this problem bigger than you think!-- reducing demand and/or changing behaviour.
The latent right-winger in me nods when they said that increasing the price would reduce demand but then the Brazilians rioted the other day when their Government tried to increase bus fares and the Venezuelan government dare not increase fuel prices from ridiculous.  So the panel discussed the introduction of meters as a way to change people's attitude to waste-- if their pockets feel it then they would be more inclined to change their behaviour. Education plays a part in changing behaviour also but not as effective as making people pay-- where Australia found a 15-20% reduction in demand by introducing 'block charges', presumably following vertical equity principles.
Leakage is a big source of wastage, about a quarter being wasted in Europe and 10% in efficient Singapore. Tokyo and Amsterdam claim 5% wastage.  Unfortunately the cost of fixing the leaks is about the cost of savings so far as many pipes need to be dug up to replace fittings. One way is the reduce the water pressure but again the pesky consumers might object,  water pressure can be varied according to demand so that people wouldn't notice as much in off-peak hours.

The other solution is to increase Supply. The cost of desalination has been reduced considerably in the past fifteen years and is common in Australia and the Middle East and gaining popularity in Portugal and Spain, however it is quite energy intensive but with the introduction of better solar power maybe that can be balanced off.

Recycling is the other option in conservation but the difficulty is persuading people not to contaminate by adding hydro-carbons like waste oil: one drop of motor oil can contaminate 50 litre of water!  Canada's Vancouver has a sensible water system separating recyclable water directly in the drainage system from the houses-- very smart.See pgs 3 +4 of

Can only hope the Guyana Government incorporates some sensible ideas out there-- however bearing in mind the uneducated population I wouldn't hold my breath! They run the risk of increased vector-borne diseases in the long-run apart from the side-effects of a polluted water supply like in Madhia.
Finally to end, a email petition in Florida to discontinue the addition of compounds to add fluoride to the water as the people thought the compounds were waste products from industry and the tooth-cavity delaying stuff is better accessed from foods; also the addition of fluoride compounds in iodine-poor areas can have a the effect of causing further childhood development.... just some food for thought!
Check out:
Also important are the comments-- asking for the sources and scientific/literature reviews like this one:;year=2009;volume=20;issue=3;spage=350;epage=355;aulast=Dhar

Friday, July 12, 2013

Appreciating our Dutch-built heritage

In the lecture given at Moray House last evening -

The first point of note was that they introduced the use of bricks in construction in Guyana back in the 1600’s when the ifrst Dutch structure/building was constructed at Kykoveral – which translated to - - "See-over-all"( I thought afterwards there is a strong argument for renaming Georgetown, Kykoveral at the rate we and Global Warming are going but from a pun point-of view- Sea-over all!). Some of the bricks got removed as recent as 2010 by people re-using them in their own personal construction, however the National Heritage is now in charge of the site and hopefully will stem the flow.  For those who didn’t know—Kykoveral on the Mazaruni river is located just beyond the junction where the Mazaruni and Cuyuni River intersect and join into the Essequibo. It is probably the first Dutch construction in the Caribbean region.
The Dutch then moved a few times and finally built a more substantial fort – Fort Zeelandia on the aptly named Fort Island.  However it was never actually used in active duty and is currently being captured by the encroaching river as those who may be interested do not have the wherewithal to do anything about it! The lecturer then went on to spend a longer time than was necessary to discuss Fort Nassau in the Berbice river, believed the be the one destroyed by the revolting slaves in 1763. Whatever remains also falling apart and being reclaimed by the Land.

At this point I was joined by a drains enthusiast who fidgeted when the ‘old boys’ moaned about the filling in of the canals in Cummingsburg in Georgetown by the English.  So interesting to hear about any subject from someone passionate about it—even Drainage in Georgetown!  So apparently what the English engineers did was fill in the irrigation canals while creating additional drainage trenches, as Georgetown was originally envisaged as a few very large plantations under the Dutch – hence names like Middle Walk.  As the City assumed more importance, the English engineers catered for drainage to cope with the expected rainfall—making the assumption that the drains would be maintained and kept clean at all times. Then the coloured/decolonized people took over and filled in some of the drainage trenches – like throwing up a new wing of the Public Hospital over one of them - and didn’t maintain keeping drains clean, leading to flooding in parts of the City with a few hours of rain.  Independence is great isn’t it – you get to screw up all by yourselves, however I note that with the wisdom of hindsight the Caricom heads have decided to ask the West, deep in financial trouble themselves, for reparation - to do what I wonder?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guyana and Climate Change/Sea Levels

Apparently the Jesuits ( ) are still around and have formed an online group called or something like that. A bookclub member who is also a member of the local Human Rights group helped organized Rev Dr PedroWalpole from the Philippines to share his experiences about rising Sea-levels and how climate changes affect small communities.
He struck me more as an ageing hippy than a serious ecologist or priest and I was not too sure I agreed with his radical view of throwing away all the textbooks and teaching science based on what the community that he was in needed/experienced. Hmm, all well and good to impose these radical views on some poor community for which something/anything is better than nothing, but as I get older I begin to appreciate what a good job the nuns did beating the 3 R’s into us (reading, writing and arithmetic) as it is truly appalling to see the younger generation/s sadly lacking in these basic skills necessary for critical thinking and analysis. This is   the second Millennium Development Goal - primary education for everyone.  However, I agreed with him that although Science might indicate a course of action, it was Social Research methods that had to find a way of ‘selling’ that idea to the policy makers and empowerment of the community is necessary so that they are not passive receivers of someone else’s will.
My textbook suggests three strategies for adaption to sea-level rise which are: retreat, accommodate and protect. Guyana has inherited the latter strategy from its previous Dutch and English masters but the Rev Dr seem to suggest that the former might be a better strategy as the sea-level does not rise steadily and there are dangers of storm surges. These contribute to devastating phenomena such as Hurricane Sandy earlier in the year which knocked out parts of New York City; who apparently were warned a couple of years ago about that possibility and they had considered putting in Oyster reefs to prevent damage but didn’t actually do it.
Interestingly sometime back in the 40’s an English engineer F E Hutchinson, had designed a comprehensive plan to drain the many areas in Regions 3, 5 and 6; but sadly these measures were never implemented as the major economic power in Guyana at the time - sugar- needed the workers to be dependent and impoverished to continue to provide cheap labour. (from The West on Trial). And previous to Hutchinson, Governor Gordon Lethem had proposed and got subsequently rejected a comprehensive drainage plan. Back to the present day: continued reinforcement of parts of the Seawall will only make adjoining areas more vulnerable, this then leaves – retreat. The German government had apparently commissioned a study whereby everyone moved to between Lanaballi  (just behind Parika) to Ituni,  that area fortuitously has most of the raw materials necessary for developing a new State within a state – first time I heard about that plan. Sadly the Wild-Westers got there first and the madness that is Madhia – an illegal miner decided to throw up a town of sorts – complete with gross pollution of waterways and other environmental and social disasters rule the day. Not helped by other mining companies operating almost independent of the Government – now who’s going the bell the cat and tell these people to heed some new idea??

I also learnt that the ocean/s are not flat and level but have internal surges depending on the temperature – there was nice picture of the East Coast of the US preceded by a red alert and to a lesser degree, the northern coast of South America.