Mahdia residents picket GWI over five-month water shortage

-illegal miners to blame, says company spokesman

Several Mahdia residents yesterday picketed the Vlissen-gen Road offices of the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) to air their concerns about a water shortage they have been experiencing since May.

Although GWI is not responsible for the community’s water system, company officials later met the protesting residents and assured that efforts are being made to rectify the situation, which is being blamed on illegal miners operating in the area.

Speaking on behalf of the group of picketers, Mahdia resident Marcia Evans explained that since May of this year, the water supply through the mains had been fluctuating before stopping completely. In addition, she said typhoid and dengue are now widespread in the area. “We cannot live without water,” she said.

Mahdia residents discussing their water shortage with Ramchand Jailall (second from right) and Timothy Austin (right) of the Guyana Water Incorporated yesterday.

She stated that as a result of the water shortage, there is no water for children to bathe and as a result they are unable to attend school. Teachers, she added, have been moving out of the area to Georgetown.

Evans said that water is being sold to them at $200 per five gallon bucket and $6,000 per tank. They use this water “to bathe with, to drink, to cook.”

Among the messages written on the placards carried by the residents were: “GWI is treating Mahdia without respect,” “GWI come to Mahdia and tell us what you are doing!” and “GWI Campbelltown and Mahdia are parts of Guyana!”

In response to the picket, GWI acting Chief Executive Officer Ramchand Jailall and Public Relations Officer Timothy Austin spoke with the residents and said that their workers were trying to rectify the situation.

Austin told reporters that GWI had issued a statement/ advisory to the residents stating that it was made aware of damage done to the mains and pipelines by miners in the area. He said Minister of Housing and Water Irfaan Ali condemned the damage done by the miners and warned of legal action against them if they did not desist from causing damage to the pipelines.

Austin said that a team of GWI workers were deployed to the area since early October to rectify the damage done, but while the team was at work further damage was still being done by the miners. He explained that though the water system is not owned by GWI, but by the community of Mahdia itself, it provides technical assistance in the area whenever necessary. At present, he said, they are in discussions with executive members of the community to see what legal measures can be taken by the regional body.

“It is the community that has to take action,” he emphasised, while adding that there isn’t a serious disruption. “People are getting water, but not at the normal level.” He said that the GWI is working to have the problem resolved as soon as possible.

Jailall, who is currently acting in the stead of CEO Nigel Niles, told the residents that GWI plans to “harvest water from the spring and provide” to Mahdia residents the needed supply. He explained to them that the current pipelines installed in the mains are made of PVC plastic, which is fragile. As a result, he said GWI is working on replacing the pipelines with High Density Polyethylene mains. He added that the company has to ensure that the spring box is harvesting properly.

Amidst protests from unsatisfied residents, Jailall promised to make a trip to Mahdia yesterday afternoon to view the situation himself.

Meanwhile, this newspaper contacted Collin Sparman, the Administrative Coordinator of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), and he acknowledged the problem, but stated that the miners who are causing the damage to the mains are not members of the Association. He said that there are “illegal miners, some of them from Mahdia who are working the land illegally, and they are the ones causing the damage.” He said that in the past there have been arrests made and equipment seized from such “illegal miners” by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).

Sparman said that the problem lies with inadequate management and security. He said there should have been field officers monitoring the system on a frequent basis and this would have given them the opportunity to better catch the illegal miners who are causing the damage. “The onus is on the GGMC and the region” to have measures taken against these perpetrators, Sparman said, while adding that the GGDMA is willing to support the GGMC, the government and the police in taking whatever legal measures necessary against the perpetrators.

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