Uncovered, unfinished gutters pose dangers to residents, road users 

1

By Assan Bah, Amadou Manjang

Residents of the Greater Banjul Area and the West Coast Region (WCR) have expressed their dissatisfaction with the unfinished roads and uncovered tunnels (gutters), saying the conditions of the roads and tunnels have made it inconvenient and unsafe for them.

The uncovered tunnels or gutters can be found around old and new roads in Brikama, Coastal Road, Serekunda, Bundung, and Bertil Harding Highway among other roads. Many of these roads are part of the OIC road project. 

The roads which are meant to ease transportation for people have now created a condition that poses health threats to residents as well as restricting the movement of persons with disabilities and posing life threats for children in the vicinities.

The uncovered ditches have caused some accidents on the Bundung Highway as well as in the Westfield area.

Meanwhile, some residents hold incompetent contractors responsible for the incompletion of the tunnels and roads. These tunnels are sometimes used by unscrupulous citizens as dumping grounds thereby hindering the movement of water which can subsequently cause flooding given their proximity to the residential areas and markets, while persons with disabilities particularly the visually challenged said their movement is affected by the uncovered tunnels.

Alagie Bah, a shopkeeper along the Bundung -Serekunda feeder road, said if the tunnels are not covered, he fears that his shop will flood when it rains heavily.

‘‘Because the tunnels the workers dug at the edge of my shop are uncovered so when it is filled with water, it will flood into my shop,’’ he added.

He said the National Road Authorities (NRA) need to act swiftly to complete the road construction works and cover the tunnels dug along the said feeder road, adding that the ongoing construction of the roads have been affecting the daily businesses of the people and it will get worse when heavy rain starts coming. 

 ‘‘With this pace of work, these tunnels won’t be covered anytime soon and the rainy season has already started,’’ Amadou Darboe said.

Darboe, who lives along the Bundung -Serekunda feeder road, said the road construction work in their area is not progressing as expected, adding that they fear the rainy season will destroy the work done so far.

‘‘In fact, this work has disrupted our daily activities along the road and now the rainy season has started without it being completed. This may further affect us in terms of access to our compounds or crossing the road when the tunnels are filled with rain water,’’ he said. 

Darboe added that the unfinished tunnels may cause flooding in the areas which is going to affect compounds that are located at the edge of the tunnels which can make the rainwater flood compounds.

Mr Sulayman Mbye said he believed it is the contractors who have not executed their work well. “I believe it is the contractors that have not done their work well. If the gutters were covered, no one would think about dumping waste in them.’’

“In this condition, the flow of the water will be hindered as the gutters contain a lot of waste which cannot be either burnt or removed. When it rains all the waste and water will flow to people’s compounds or residents.’’ 

For Modou Njie, the road construction work has already disrupted access to their compounds, especially for car owners.

‘‘It has been a while since I last used my car to get to my compound because of the water tunnels. This road construction is supposed to make things easy for us, but it is not due to the pace of the work. The longer the work is unfinished, the more it will affect us,’’ he complained.

He further complained that the rainy season has already commenced and they are concerned that they will face difficulties along the road.

‘‘And the worst thing is that the construction work does not seem to be completed any time soon,’ he said, adding that ‘‘the authorities need to take the work seriously and complete it because heavy rains have started coming. It will only make the road accessible for road users, but it will be inconvenient for the residents as well.’’

Photo: An uncovered tunnel at Old Yundum, Coastal Road

KebbaJanneh, a road site vendor at the Old Yundum Market said: “The open gutters are not safe here not only for the residents of the area, but also vehicles and pedestrians because they also frequently use here.’’    

He said leaving the gutters open has health implications as some residents of the community continue to dump waste in the gutters. 

“When the rain finds the gutters in this way, it will give us bad odour because the gutters are not covered and the water will not flow as they dug only this area. It is a dirty environment that attracts mosquitoes,” he said. 

He further highlighted some of the risks the gutters may have on the community. 

He said: “The opened gutters carry lots of risks as when it rains, the water will cover the whole area and one will not be able to identify a safe way which could lead to a person falling in a gutter and thereby sustaining severe injuries or dying.’’   

He, however, urged the residents of the community to stop dumping waste in the open gutters. “We should all ensure that the environment is clean as no one will come from outside and clean it [environment] for us,” he said. 

Mr Alpha O. Jallow, a resident of Old Yundum, called on the government to take necessary measures to ensure that the drainage system in the area is built in a way that will pave way for water to flow smoothly without causing any damage to the community.

He appealed to the government and the council to embark on night patrols so that unscrupulous people will not dump waste in the gutters. 

“I want to appeal to the government and the council [Brikama Area Council] to deploy their personnel on the ground so they will patrol the streets during the night as some unscrupulous individuals sometimes wait till the wee hour of night and they dump their waste in the gutters,’’ he said.

The resident said the work is far from finished and if it was done properly they won’t be talking about the waste being dump in the gutters. 

They said the responsible authorities should ensure the work on the gutters and roads are completed sooner than later.  

Mr Samba Jaiteh, a visually impaired person, said the open gutters pose a threat to their movements, adding that people have been falling in some of the gutters like those at Westfield. 

“There were also instances when vehicles fell in the gutters and these cars are driven by people who can see talk-less of visually impaired persons,’ he said.

He said even though some of the gutters had small slabs to ease people’s movement, they “still pose a lot of difficulties to us. This is unfair to us because our right to freedom of movement is being hindered by this problem.” 

He recalled an incident in Banjul where he fell in a gutter and sustained injuries because the gutters were not covered.  

Jaiteh, therefore, called on authorities to cover all the gutters saying that it is affecting their freedom of movement in the country. 

He argues that their freedom of movement should be guaranteed by the government by making the road safe and accessible for everyone.

‘‘If they can construct roads and bridges, why not cover gutters?’’ He asked. 

He added: “Some will claim that they are inclusive by providing ramps which I appreciate but that is not enough, disability is a package. You find big open gutters in Westfield where a car even fell just recently. If it rains even those that are not visually impaired can fall in them.’’ 

Further speaking on their difficulties he said: “Operation clear the road is also impeding our movement because the waste are left on the roadside which most of us fall on and sustain injuries.’’ 

He called on the government to remove the ruins left on the side of the roads as these things are hindering their movement, saying they should have means of collecting the rubbish generated as a result of the aforesaid operation.

He said they are discriminated against, arguing that discrimination does not only mean being harassed by someone, but when one cannot move without the help of another person is a form of discrimination. 

“There is this culture in the country that once one is not affected, one will not care. We also should have an equal share of the national cake. I am calling on the government to cover the gutters because they are causing a lot of harm to us as they are making our movement very difficult,’’ he added. 

National Road Authority widely known as NRA is mainly responsible for cleaning and covering drainage and gutters across the country even though local councils have similar mandate in their communities.  The activity is carried out by its Operation and Safety Departments yearly, but this year they have not started the operation ahead of the rainy season.

‘’To be quite honest, it is a little bit late [for clearing and covering the gutters] but the process has been going on for a few weeks up to a month,’’ BaniTaiwo Chapman,  Senior Feeder Road Manager of National Road Authority told Foroyaa on Thursday during an interview.

Chapman acknowledged that the NRA drainage cleaning and covering exercising is late because the rainy season has already started which means that block gutters are already filled with stagnant water.

‘‘But very soon [we] will be there out to carry on’’ on the slab replacing and drainage cleaning exercise,” he said.

He added that the exercise is ongoing around Ebou Town where broken gutter slabs are been replaced.

‘‘All of this cannot be realised in one go. Big Lorries stand on the slabs covering the gutters.  I think law enforcement should play a part in it, if someone damages a slab, he should repair it because if not we will just continue replacing these slabs at the expense of government,” he said.

Regarding the opened gutters, Chapman argues gutters such as storm-water drainage are usually uncovered. Storm-water drainage can be found in Westfield, Kanifing, Jimpex, and Jeshwang among other places. 

However, residents and road users argue that they still pose a threat to them, adding they are also concerned about the newly dig gutters along new feeders roads in their communities. 

As road users and residents are concerned about their safety and the threatening health conditions the gutters pose,  Chapman stated: ‘‘If we don’t do it [drainage clearing] what will happen is that our hard earned investment will just wash away.’’