Greater EPA presence needed in Hinterland areas – Toshaos
DPI Guyana, Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Indigenous leaders are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase its presence in hinterland communities. The call was made during the third day of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) conference, at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), Turkeyen.
The leaders addressed environmental issues affecting areas such as Marudi, the Upper Mazaruni and Baramita; particularly the negative impact mining has on the livelihood of the people. Hence, they are asking for an increase in the number of visits and consultations from the EPA and for offices to be established at strategic points in every region.
Clyde Henry, Toshao of Waramadong noted that villages in the upper Mazaruni are concerned with the level of pollution in their waterways. He explained that the residents depend on the water for their daily survival for domestic use- to cook , wash and bathe.
“The Mazaruni river is fully contaminated….. fishes refuse to live in the water and your skin will break out when you use it. For years we were very protective of our river and we now realise the seriousness of this issue, especially the impact of mercury,” Henry said. He is pleading with the EPA to treat the Upper Mazaruni area with urgency.
EPA’s Executive Director (ag.) Khemraj Parsram explained that historically, the EPA through an MOU delegated its responsibilities to the Environmental Management Unit of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). Over the past year, the EPA has made efforts to improve its capacities.
Additionally, offices will be established in Lethem, Region Nine and Region Six this year.“With that in mind, we are making the efforts to take back control of the environment with regards to mining and forestry, of course, in partnerships with GGMC, but we want to ensure that we play a stronger role going forward,”Parsram explained.
Parsram said that over the past years, the EPA has been responding to hinterland community’s complaints about the negative impact of mercury, as such, the Ministry of Natural Resources is collaborating with the UNDP to develop a plan for the phasing out the use of mercury.
“In the case of the Upper Mazaruni, in the past, we have made recommendations to the GGMC to take enforcement actions, because a lot of the issues are not clear cut, because there is the issues of miner’s rights and other legal authority and EPA does not have the authority to just go and say to a miner, look you have to shut down. It is a process and it takes time,” Parsram explained.
He also noted that the EPA is in the process of identifying ‘hotspot’ areas for monitoring.
Parsram is calling on the NTC to meet with the agency to discuss issues affecting the indigenous people, so together they can develop plans to address these concerns.
By: Synieka Thorne