By Murtland Haley
Residents of the Amerindian Community of Karrau, Region Seven will for the first time have a water distribution network installed to supply homes, a primary school and health centre with safe water.
The water well which was officially opened yesterday was a solution to a major problem which severely affected the lives of residents. During a ceremony commemorating the opening, Toshao of Karrau, Bertille Thomas, said that residents of the community used a creek which runs near the village as their main source of water.
However, for a number of years the creek has been contaminated due to mining operations. As a result of the contamination, Thomas said that residents began to complain and protest for the provision of safe water for their families.
According to the Toshao, Karrau began as a timber grant in the 1940s. “After the grant, it became popular; workers in the end found a home here in Karrau, so that is how the village originated. In those days, the villagers used to enjoy the natural resources of the creek water, for bathing, washing and fishing and for many years, over 40 years, I average, from 1940s to 1990s, everyone was very happy, then very recently, the water became contaminated due to mining activities.”
In April last year, tests done at the creek confirmed that contamination was at an alarming level. The turbidity of the water was very high, muddy and unfit for human consumption. Protest against this state of affairs ensued to the extent that the roadway was blocked preventing miners from accessing their mining operations located further up the Mazaruni River.
According to Thomas, everyone depended heavily on the creek water. He said that following protests he met with Managing Director of the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI), Dr. Van-West Charles, and sought a way out of the problem.
He said that it was suggested that a well should be drilled. He added that the process began with finances from the Village Council to the tune of $1.3M. However, GWI assisted with other costs.
He said that the entire network took six months to complete and now allows residents to access potable water. Twenty-four standpipes were installed in the village. There is one standpipe to every five houses whereby over 300 persons stand to benefit.
The water is distributed on a sectional basis but the Karrau Primary School and Health Centre will receive water on a 24/7 basis.
Regional Chairman Gordon Bradford addressed the gathering saying that due to the pollution of the only source of water to the village he was invited to visit the community to assess the situation when he fully understood the seriousness of the situation.
He congratulated the Toshao and the Village Council for taking the initiative for starting the process and participating in remedying the problem. As such he stressed that development is possible when all stakeholders play an active role.
Delivering remarks on behalf of Junior Minister of Communities Dawn Hastings was Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources Simona Broomes who urged the residents to care the new infrastructure.
She asked that the residents to build on the project and take it further as time passes. Broomes suggested to the Council that a penalty is instituted to ensure residents take great care of the standpipes.
GWI’s Managing Director said that he became knowledgeable of the contamination via an article in the Kaieteur News just before taking office in October 2015. He said that the report was an example of the media’s relevance in sustainable development.
“One of the constructive roles of the media is linked to development by helping us to identify where some of the needs are so we can address them.”
The Managing Director relayed that the Karrau project is a model which can be followed in other communities for moving forward.
Charles stressed that access to water is important and one of the remits of the GWI is to look at Hinterland Communities in particular that do not have access to potable water. He said that to achieve this there needs to be a collaboration of resources from all stakeholders.
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