The Regional Council at Bartica, which reportedly has oversight for the Barakara Falls area, a few years ago turned down an application for a lease by businessman Jad Rahaman, who was seeking to maintain and protect the area.
Efforts to contact regional officials yesterday for a comment proved futile.
Barakara Falls is currently under threat from quarry operations being conducted in its environs by BK International and a few tour operators have raised an alarm saying environmental destruction to the land will ruin the falls, which has been a tourist attraction for years. BK International has not responded to the reports.
Barakara Falls was barely visible following recent operations in the area with operators reporting activities which they say are destroying the environment. Graded-down vegetation and small ponds covered in debris currently capture what the area looks like.
It was a few years ago that Rahaman made an application the Region Seven administration at Bartica for a lease to manage some 13 acres of land in the immediate area surrounding the falls. He told Stabroek News yesterday that the area was in need of protection; something he fought to provide but was unsuccessful. The authorities turned down his application on the ground that the area could not be under private control.
Rahaman had previously operated Barakara Resort in the area and he said he was responsible for an extensive amount of work which was carried out at the Falls to make it accessible to the public. He recalled that around 13 years ago he undertook the project to clear a pathway to the falls and he also built a bridge to make access easier. “We did a great deal of work on it so people could go, but we wanted to do more,” he said. He explained that vegetation was overgrown in the area prior to his project and that he was hoping to get the lease to maintain the area.
Rahaman said his interest in the area at the Falls was consistent because he was operating a business a short distance away. However, after his application was denied he started losing interest in the place. He still visits the area, but observed that he is no longer deeply involved as he was several years ago.
Rahaman said he has no idea whether the area has been leased to anyone. However he recalled that a quarry company had previously held a lease for the land back in the 1950s. He said the land was subsequently transferred back to the authorities in the region.
On Tuesday some tour operators complained about the current state of Barakara Falls due to the operations being conducted in the area. They pointed out that the entrance to the falls has been largely inaccessible due to the recent development, noting that they were forced to manually bulldoze through the area to offer services that they had earlier guaranteed customers.
“We were not consulted on this and given the area and its appeal, this oversight should not happened,” the owner of Nature Tours commented on Tuesday. 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.
Alisha Ousman, who manages Wonderland Tours, described the situation as serious and 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 because of the many fallen trees among other debris in the immediate area. Ousman reported that Barakara Falls is taking a beating from the works being carried out in the area, and noted that continued aggravation could result in its complete destruction.
Stabroek News telephoned Minister of Tourism Manniram Prashad yesterday for a comment but he said he was at Parika and could not speak to this newspaper. He declined to say when he would be able to do so.