Technical evaluation needed to determine damage to Konawaruk River

There is need for a technical evaluation to determine the extent of the damage to the Konawaruk River, Major General (rtd) Joseph Singh, who first expressed concern about the state of the river over a decade ago, has said.

Singh, who also once headed Conservation Inter-national – Guyana and was chairman of the board of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), noted that experts interviewed for an article in the Stabroek News regarding the state of the river have agreed that there is degradation.

Stating that he did not wish to comment, Singh, nevertheless, briefly said that there is probably a need for a technical evaluation of the Konawaruk River even as he emphasized that it is not the only river in Guyana affected in this manner as a result of mining activities.

Stabroek News reported last week that the Konawaruk River is still heavily silted more than a decade after attention was first drawn to the degraded state of the Region Eight waterway. It had previously been branded a “dead” river – incapable of supporting aquatic life but this has drawn varying views. “It would be difficult to say that without carrying out a proper assessment,” Dr David Singh, the head of Conservation International – Guyana had told Stabroek News.

He had pointed out that the period for which the river has remained in a heavily polluted state -10 to 15 years – is more than the lifespan of aquatic species.

Former head of the GGMC William Woolford, who is now a consultant in the mining industry, however, was adamant that the Konawaruk River is not dead.

Such an assessment, he had said, cannot be done by sight and studies done by the GGMC over the years showed that the river was still sustaining life.

However, he had acknowledged that he did not know the present status of the river.

Singh yesterday observed that the Konawaruk River was not the only river in Guyana damaged as a result of mining activities.

The issue relates to whether any biodiversity has been damaged, he said while adding that it needs to be ensured that rivers are not degraded to such an extent that the ecosystem suffers.

It needs to be ensured that there is a balance between mineral extraction and the environment, he said, while cautioning about species loss and adverse impacts on humans and human health.

In terms of rehabilitation of the river, the former army chief said this was the remit of the GGMC and Environmental Protection Agency. “If there’s a plan, I don’t know it has been implemented,” he added while noting that rehabilitation has far-reaching implications.

When contacted yesterday, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environ-ment Robert Persaud said he had asked his staff to prepare a report after seeing the article in the Stabroek News. He said he would prefer to make a full statement and promised that it would be done by tomorrow afternoon.

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