Quarry operations threaten Barakara Falls

Barakara Falls, a tourist attraction on the Mazaruni River, are under threat from quarry operations in the environs according to tour operators, who are calling on the company responsible to protect the area before it is destroyed entirely.

Before and after: At left are the Barakara Falls prior to the start of the quarry operations. At right, the Falls are barely visible behind graded-down vegetation that now allow for a road to the quarry operations.

Operators reported that some damage has been done to the area surrounding the falls due to operations being conducted by BK International and as a result the entrance to the falls has been largely inaccessible. The recent development has led to some tour services having to manually bulldoze through the area to offer services that they had earlier guaranteed customers.

Stabroek News contacted BK International Head Office yesterday and spoke with an official who said he was not in a position to comment on the issue. He directed this newspaper to the General Manager of the company’s Mazaruni operations, Dayaljee Persaud, who was reportedly out of office when this newspaper called on two occasions. An official at the Mazaruni office informed this newspaper that Persaud would be out of office for some time and then requested that this newspaper ring the head office again. He also appeared perplexed as to why queries were being directed to the office.

“We were not consulted on this and given the area and its appeal, this oversight should not happened,” the owner of Nature Tours said yesterday. The owner, who identified herself as “Joanie,” said the falls are facing imminent destruction if an intervention is not made. She noted also that the area has already suffered a great deal.

Joanie said Nature Tours organised a trip to Barakara Falls on Sunday and it was during this recent visit the damage was discovered. “It’s a huge problem, they are destroying that area and nobody said anything to us operators because it is something we can sit down and discuss,” she added. She further said that Barakara Falls stands out among the wonders of the Mazaruni River.

She said too that there are other waterfalls in the area, including Marshall Falls. However, she noted Barakara is more hassle-free and easier to get persons to. Joanie said Marshall Falls are some distance up the Mazaruni River and according to her, weather conditions sometimes determines how accessible they are.

Alisha Ousman, who manages Wonderland Tours, described the situation as serious and she called for an end to the destruction. Ousman also fielded a tour to the area on Sunday and according to her, it was a hassle to gain access to the falls due to many fallen trees among other debris in the immediate area.

Ousman reported that Barakara Falls are taking a beating from the works being carried out in the area, and noted that continued aggravation could result in its complete destruction. She said the falls were originally created due to similar operations that had been conducted in the area, but according to her what is currently going on is likely to destroy it. She noted that many persons enjoy trips to the falls because they are accessible.

Previously, her tour service had organised many trips to the area and she explained that it is very popular. Ousman said she personally raised the issue of what is happening at the falls with the relevant authorities but to no avail. She said people have basically ignored her complaints. She said the operators have no problem with BK International and they are willing to discuss the issue in an effort to save the waterfalls.

Stabroek News spoke with Region Seven Chairman Holbert Knights who said yesterday that he was unaware of what is happening at Barakara Falls. However, he said that if the tour operators picked up on any form of destruction then “it is possible.”

Several other tour operators who were contacted yesterday reported that they no longer go to that area, while in one instance the company said it never organised a tour there. “We do not like the fact that this fall is open to the public because that has it own problems, including garbage issues so we take our customers to Marshall Falls,” an operator said.

But Ousman said the falls belongs to the people. She said anyone can visit the falls, noting that previously tour operators joined together and protected the area.

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