– APA says several communities would be submerged
Guyana has continuously experienced short periods of black outs since the mid-seventies, with several ideas to tackle the issue coming to the fore, the latest being a revival of the People’s National Congress’s (PNC) proposed Mazaruni hydro project now being led under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government.
A Brazilian consortium is setting to undertake a US$45M prefeasibility study to determine potential hydro power in the Upper and Middle Mazaruni. However, Amerindian stakeholders living in the area are still objecting to the development of any hydro projects in the location.
The Amerindian People’s Association (APA) is adamant that residents in six Amerindian villages are at risk of flooding should the project manifest and fail. APA member Laura George, who hails from the Mazaruni area, told Kaieteur News yesterday that the government has at no time engaged the Amerindian communities despite the concerns that were raised. She said that the APA and Survival International, a global body that addresses the rights of Tribal peoples, were in fact accused by the government of disseminating false information when the project resurfaced some four or five years ago.
She added that the Amerindian Affairs Ministry also denied that the project would be discontinued when Toshaos sought answers on the allegations. George related that in January of this year, the Toshaos were invited to a consultation on projects, grants and hydro power. However, when the issue of hydro power came up, the government representatives said that that was an issue that would have to be discussed with Prime Minister Samuel Hinds.
The Toshaos had, therefore, expressed their discontent with the meeting, when they were told further that “the meeting was just part of a regional consultations”.
When the PNC had brought the idea to the communities, George said that they too were met with resistance, since research had shown that all the villages would have been greatly affected; with some being completely submerged by flood waters. Even suggestions of relocation were met with disagreement, she emphasized.
George went on to explain that with small periods of rainfall, the land is extremely soggy, while light flooding is experienced; any hydro project in such a location could mean disaster.
George asserted that while government claims that flood risk has been significantly reduced by 90 percent given new technology, the communities are not convinced and are not willing to take their word for it.
Toshaos within the six most at risk communities are therefore seeking to engage the government, especially those of the Upper Mazaruni who were most vocal on the issue. Some 5000 to 6000 people are at risk in Kamarang, Jawalla, Kako, Imbaimadai, Warawatta and Waramadong. The communities engage mostly in subsistence farming and depend heavily on their lands for survival.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds said last Monday that a team had consulted with several communities in Region Seven including Kamarang, Jawalla, Kako and Imbaimadai, among the locations in the Upper Mazaruni. He said that the Upper Mazaruni communities were concerned that the project would result in flooding, but Government was not willing to engage in the project if it would result in the flooding of the communities to the extent that would have occurred with the designs of the 1970s.
He stated that from the 1970s to now, technology has evolved and the approach to the design would reduce the reservoir by “90 percent or more” in comparison to the previous one. Two hydro sites in the Upper and Middle Mazaruni are expected to produce some 4,500 megawatts of cheap electricity.
The consortium, Queiroz Galvao and OAS, government says, is ready to commence the feasibility studies which must be “completed and fully analyzed before any decision is taken…” The Mazaruni project comes months after a New York-based company, Sithe Global, deserted the controversial Amaila Falls Hydro project against objections by stakeholders and Opposition parties who voted down financing for the project. The 2014 budget has, however, returned for billions of dollars to be pumped into the ailing electricity sector, while subsidizing Linden and Kwakwani with cheap electricity rates. The consortium’s study will last one year.
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