Sandbanks rendering upper Demerara River virtually unnavigable

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One of the growing sandbanks on the Demerara River in the vicinity of the Coomacka Mines 

–Coomacka, other residents worry about their safety

 

A BUILDUP of sand and other debris on the upper Demerara River, near the mining community of Coomacka, is rendering the waterway virtually unnavigable at those points.Coomacka residents told the Guyana Chronicle last week that while the situation has been going on for years, it has worsened significantly over the past few weeks with the onset of the rainy season.

The community, which is located some 15 miles from Linden, has a population of approximately 2500 residents, many of whom are Amerindians.

The river in their neck of the woods is not only used for transportation purposes, but for domestic and recreational ones as well, such as washing, fishing, swimming, bathing and sourcing drinking water.

Now, with the large volume of aggregates being eroded into the water, thereby covering almost half of its surface, residents are concerned that their livelihoods may very well be affected if the situation continues to worsen.

What is even more troubling, they say, is the threat the situation can pose to boats and other modes of transportation traversing the river, especially at nights. And with the sand almost reaching the centre of the river, they say, those commuters who are not aware of the situation will be at a distinct disadvantage.

With three titled Amerindian communities further up the river, and the scores of farmsteads and small living settlements along the way, river traffic can at times be rather busy, with persons journeying to Linden to either market their farm produce, purchase food or other household necessities, or transact other business.

Regional Chairman, Renis Morian, who was on site at the time inspecting the situation, told the Guyana Chronicle that because of the encumbrance, there was an accident some months ago when a boat heading to a village further up the river ran into it.

Such was the impact, Morian said, it caused all hands on board the vessel, even the driver who was unaware of the situation, as well as the provisions it was carrying, to go under.

Now residents are afraid the situation might very well repeat itself, with even more dire consequences, if something is not done urgently to address it.

Said one resident, “What I’m afraid of is that dem small boat coming in the night would crash, ‘cause most of them don’t use light, and this sand bank getting wider and wider every day. “So, sometimes yuh think yuh on river, and is sand; and yuh coming with the speed and something terrible happen.”

Regional Chairman Morian has since given residents his word that the issue will be addressed as early as possible, just as soon as he can contact the relevant authorities to have it remedied.

Said he: “This poses serious risk to life and damage to property. Now that we are here and we’ve seen first-hand what is happening, we will use the pictures taken here to speak to MARAD (Maritime Administration Department), the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, NDIA (National Drainage and Irrigation Authority), Sea Defence… all the necessary players so that we can have this problem fixed.”

He also revealed that the Regional Democratic Council had commenced work to have the problem fixed, but that the magnitude of the work to be done proved beyond their capacity.

The Regional Chairman also expressed interest in the volume of aggregates that can be used for construction of roads, bridges and edifices but are being washed into the river.

Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) has been affected tremendously by the heavy rainfalls since the commencement of the rainy season a few weeks ago.
Though the Region has not experienced widespread flooding as Region 4 (Demerara-Mahaica), the rains have taken a toll on public infrastructure, causing major breakages to roads and revetment works as a result of erosion which has resulted in the inundation of the farming community of West Watooka.