–high tech-surveillance, support of residents could help arrest challenge
The Guyana Water Inc. [GWI] may soon be looking to invest in high-tech surveillance equipment to help safeguard its water distribution infrastructure against illegal mining activity in Mahdia, Region Eight.
This was the disclosure of Managing Director of the water company, Dr. Richard Van West Charles, during a press conference at the company’s Vlissengen Road and Church Street, Georgetown office yesterday.
“I wouldn’t rule out GWI investing in one and two drones to help us to do our own surveillance and provide the information to the police and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission [GGMC],” said Dr. Van West Charles.
“…GGMC should also consider, I would think, monitoring the illegal activity in mining,” the Managing Director said as he made it clear that it is the role of the Police Force and the GGMC to monitor illegal mining activities.
He also stressed the need for increased police presence, close monitoring by GGMC and the imposition of stern sanctions to help bring an end to damage caused to the water distribution system in Region Eight.
The situation in question, Dr. Charles said is predominant in the Waterdog Road area of Mahdia. As he directed his attention to breakage in sections of GWI infrastructure in the affected area, the GWI Managing Director said, “These are wilful breaks to ‘wash down’ for these illegal miners…these are wilful leaks across the distribution system to access water for the illegal mining activities. A lot of these activities occur during the day and between midnight and the wee hours of the morning.”
At one time, the Managing Director said, there were as many as 100 leaks. In order to address the situation, he revealed that GWI has even been forced to send two crews from its Shelter Belt location to help correct the daunting situation.
“Once these leaks occur, then the surface water level to the people of Mahdia and around drops significantly…This illegal activity is impacting the availability of water and quality of water. The issue, too, is that we don’t know what chemicals these illegal miners are using. That is the other side of the coin,” Dr. Van West Charles revealed.
“We are seeking to collaborate with the regional administration… but it is really getting out of control. We now need the community to get involved [too] in helping to stem this type of illegal activity.”
He added, “We would like the legal system to deal with this illegal activity. The sanctions need to be increased and the police probably need to be [more] equipped…I don’t know how mobile they are and GGMC, to control this activity.”
Taking this course of action is imperative, Dr. Van West Charles said, in order for the water distribution system to be sustainable and restored to serve the population of Mahdia.
“This illegal activity is impacting negatively on the distribution system; it is impacting the availability of water and it is impacting on the availability of water,” said Dr. Van West Charles.
The state of affairs, he added, is currently creating an additional financial burden on GWI. “To rectify these things, there is an added expense which are not in the budget…a lot of this work now has to be addressed, which would cost approximately about $2 million. It is something for which we need community involvement and all hands on deck because this is a continuing activity where we are seeing these breakages,” he said.
“This type of activity begs the question for the investment because if you invest even more and as you invest this illegal activity disrupts the system, [then] the investment comes to nought, so we really need to arrest it.”
Speaking of the existing challenge, GWI’s Planning and Implementation Director, Ramchand Jailall, said, “The system operates where one comes through one transmission main [about four to five miles away from the Mahdia township]. This transmission main, if it is broken, the entire Mahdia will be affected. It is necessary for us to maintain it and to keep it functioning at the appropriate pressure as well.”
“As you have breakages, the pressure will reduce, and then Mahdia will not be able to get water at the adequate,” Jailall explained.
Stressing the need to work with the community, Jailall added, “We don’t know the chemicals the miners are using and if those chemicals get into the pipe, it will get to the community. These same miners may have families residing in Mahdia and they wouldn’t want chemicals, which are dangerous to their health, get into the lines and get to their family members or friends.”
“That is one of the risks facing us right now. We need to ensure that they desist from carrying out those illegal activities especially around our pipe mains and we also need to ensure that we mitigate against those risks that could be detrimental,” Jailall said.
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