Region 10 riverine communities affected by major water pollution – officials
Several riverine communities in Region 10 are affected by major pollution of creeks and rivers as a result of gold mining activities.
This was revealed by officials of Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) at a recent statutory meeting of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC).
Some of the affected areas are Riversview, Falmouth and Rockstone.
While the community of Riversview, also situated on the right bank of the Essequibo River, is presently in the spotlight for making history as the first in the region to be designated “Indigenous Heritage Village”, it is said to be battling issues such as water pollution caused by mining activities. Regional Executive Officer (REO) Orrin Gordon, during the meeting pointed to pollution in both the creeks and river.
“There’s major, major…pollution in the creeks that they use…from mining,” he told the Council.
The RDC has, in recent times, halted diamond mining activities in the Demerara River by suspending the activities of draggers.
Regional Chairman Renis Morian said the activities have serious consequences on the health and livelihood of the people living in communities along the Demerara and Berbice Rivers as many depend on the water for household purposes.
Morian stated during the meeting that he has had recent reports of yet another dragger being built and taken to the riverine and creek locations.
“The environment is under tremendous pressure…and everybody just after one thing- money…at the expense of the very life that they’re living”, he said.
The Regional Chairman added that draggers are usually built and hidden in areas such as creeks, as he pointed out that this is dangerous owing to the fact that these areas are where farming takes place and residents utilise the water for drinking purposes.
The issue, he explained, has been ongoing for over two decades. The Regional Chairman noted, however, that the Council will continue to fight to protect the well-being of residents living in these communities.
“This Council will put up a strenuous battle on behalf of the people at Riverview, Falmouth and Rockstone, as it relates to possible water that they are using that are contaminated. We wouldn’t take it lightly…we’re standing for the people…the residents in this community, we are united against people polluting anything…” he said.
He stressed that while operators of the draggers come with legal documents supporting the activities, as Chairman, he has a responsibility to protect the lives of the people.
“We got to protect the generations here…people grabbing after gold and forget the livelihood of the people… you work out the cost of the gold and the damage to humanity and the environment and all of that and you will see how the damage to the environment and the people outweigh the lil gold,” Morian stressed.
The Regional Chairman pointed out that life has returned to the Demerara river as is evident by an increase in fishing activities, hence the need to protect and preserve the life of the river.
“Sometimes I wonder the role that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) plays in all of this because while you going and get some money, the long-term effects on life and production, on the health of the community far outweigh the benefits…” he noted, as he stressed the importance of protecting life and sustainable living in the communities.
Following the halt of the setting up of a mining operation at a section of the Demerara River in Linden last year, several officials had voiced concerns over the negative impacts that such activities have had on communities and what they fear might take place should this practice continue. Divisional Manager of the Guyana Water Inc (GWI) Rawle Friday had explained that should there be any water mining mishaps, some 18,000 residents who depend on the water system can be adversely affected. Friday said the GWI would have taken interest in the operations given the risks of contamination.
Deputy Mayor Wainewright Bethune had also pointed to effects such as high mercury concentration which he noted can affect Indigenous communities which solely depend on the river for a livelihood. He noted that these activities should always be associated with an Environment Impact Assessment so that the leadership and the residents of the communities are fully aware of what is happening.