Jun 07, 2023 News
By Shervin Belgrave
Kaieteur News – The reluctance of the Guyana Manganese Inc. (GMI), a subsidiary of Bosai Minerals Group, to repair a dam it damaged some two years ago, continues to affect residents-especially school children and pensioners- living at Lower Pakera, Mathews Ridge, North West District (NWD) Region One.
During a trip to the area in May, Kaieteur News learnt that the Chinese manganese company made no efforts to fix the dam despite being instructed to do so by President Mohamed Irfaan Ali. President Ali had last December, during an outreach held in Matthews Ridge, instructed to company to repair the dam after they complained to him.
However, when Kaieteur News visited in May, the condition of the dam was still the same. The damage is so severe that it has cut off Lower Pakera from the rest of Matthews Ridge. The road that connected the two communities was completely washed away after the dam used by the Chinese miners broke and eroded the access to the community.
A body of water now separates the road into two halves and the only access to the community is by walking a few meters down steep slippery steps carved out in the mud of the broken dam and then across a small metal bridge that is not anchored down. After crossing the bridge, one still has to climb another few meters, this time up more slippery mud steps before getting over to the other half of the road to continue their journey.
According to Desmond (only name given), one of the residents of lower Pakera, the company had only placed the small bridge there after they (the residents) repeatedly complained about the broken dam.
“Before they put the lil bridge down deh, pon three pipe we used to walk over. Then we comment and comment and then them put a lil bridge,” Desmond said while adding “The water does still cover the bridge, when it rises,” not only making it dangerous to cross but leaving the community stranded without basic supplies for days. Children would are also forced to stay home from school because there is simply no other way to get out or in of Lower Pakera.
Some parents even fear sending their children to school when the waters recede because of how slippery the bridge and the mud steps get.
Desmond’s wife Margret said she almost lost her life while trying to cross over the bridge during the rainy season.
“Me slip and fall and luckily me fasten between the bridge and just ma foot reach in the water,” Margret said while explaining that she could have been severely injured or perhaps swept away in the water.
Her, 83-year-old father, however, did not escape unharmed. The man identified as Duncan, said that while heading out of the area to collect his pension he slipped and fell on the bridge breaking his left arm. That injury has since left him a protruding bone in his right arm. He is unable to use that hand.
Other residents related that sick pensioners are the ones who are most at risk especially when it is time for medical check-ups and emergency trips to the hospitals.
“Look me father took in the other night and we could not have hice [lift] he and carry him down we had to wait till in the morning… We tek a very long time fuh to cross him over because we had to hold him and tek we time to go down the hill”, one of the residents related.
They claimed that before the dam was broken vehicles and ATV (four wheel motor bikes) would arrive directly at their homes to transport the sick but now they resort to fetching them over the “dangerous crossing”.
Residents said that the dam was in existence for years until the Chinese company reportedly destroyed it.
The previous owner of GMI, according to residents, had constructed the dam for the purpose of getting water to the washing plant. It was reportedly constructed with a small koker underneath for the water to flow out when it starts to “buildup”.
When the Chinese owners took over the company they decided to block the koker to make a huge reservoir.
“But when them come now and them block it and the water build up and the bust way the whole dam,” Desmond explained.
The dam reportedly broke in September 2021 and caused severe flooding in Matthews Ridge. It was reported back then by the media that “a koker in Lower Pakera blocked by GMI had broken away causing flooding to the main access roads, to a number of nearby farms, and has caused several residents to seek refuge in trees, as they waited for the waters to recede”.
GMI had promised to assess the situation but it took them one year to attempt building back the dam. In August 2022, the company erected a concrete structure and partially repaired the dam but it broke away again.
Since then the company did no further works on the dam and has simply abandoned the reservoir and built another one to continue its operations while the residents of lower Pakera continue to struggle with a broken dam.
In May, Vice-President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo led a party outreach in the Matthews Ridge and the residents complained again. Jagdeo has since promised to look into the matter but to date no attempts were made to fix the dam. Attempts by Kaieteur News to contact the management of GCI have proven futile. This publication also visited the area and the company’s location and was informed by security personnel that an appointment had to be made to speak with representatives of the manganese company.
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