By Jeff Trotman
Local environmental ex-perts are concerned at the lack of systematic management of solid waste being dumped in close proximity to the Dakoura Creek, which is earmarked to be the sole source of potable water in Western Linden when the Linden Water System is fully rehabilitated.
“It is very scary,” declared engineer Sam Wright during a tour of the Dakoura watershed, he conducted for stakeholders on September 3. Wright has submitted a 70 page report on a study he had done on the Dakoura Creek Area for the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI), which can form the basis for the long term sustainable management and supply of potable water in Western Linden.
He said it is important for all stakeholders to be familiar with the report, which is a sort of preliminary guide for them to add their expertise in the formulation of a more comprehensive understanding of the environment to maintain its integrity. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Guyana Water Incorporat-ed, Bosai Minerals Guyana Ltd and the Hydro Meteorological Depart-ment participated in the tour.
The stakeholders were taken aback by the manner of the solid waste dumping and the proximity of the dump site to such a large and strategic water reserve. They all feared that leaching of contaminated water from the dump site could reach the Dakoura Creek or eventually end up in the Demerara River.
Wright said the Linden Town Council had been advised to stop dumping solid waste in the area, or to better manage the Dakoura solid waste site. It was also observed that the dump site, which is located along the Dakoura Mine haul road, was lower than the road but it has been elevated, thereby, increasing the risk of surface and groundwater contamination of a nearby creek to the south at a lower elevation.
One of the stakeholders suggested that in the absence of any scientific study, dumping should be done, at a distance of at least ten feet from the edge of the road. It was also suggested that the garbage should be bulldozed, at least, once a month and that would improve the solid waste management of the location.
“There are things that could be done to mitigate against leaching and things coming out the system,” Wright opined. “We have resources, right now, in Linden to do better than this. This shows no thinking, no engineering, no planning.”
While it was observed that some burning was done at the site, Wright said the planners should have built a cell lined with plastic and clay, then covered the solid waste in a systematic manner.
He also said a Solid Waste Management Bill was being fashioned by the government but there were things that can be done even before the bill goes to Parliament – “Separation of waste at the source … and we can reduce the amount of waste we generate by ten per cent, even that would make a difference,” he added, “Somebody has to make it a priority.”
Apart from the Dakoura dump site, the tour included observation of Bosai’s mining operation at the nearby bauxite mine as well as a physical viewing of the environment in the upper reaches of the Dakoura Creek and the area where water is extracted from the creek for treatment in the Wisroc Water Treatment Plant.
The stakeholders were informed that the Dakoura Mine, about eight miles north east of the dump site, was a relatively dry mine. Pointing out that the mining operation was about 800 metres from the creek, Wayne Bethune, Bosai’s Environmental Officer, said that there was little ground water in the mine and there was no heavy flow of water from the mine.
Although, he said mined out areas were covered, Bethune admitted that there was some buildup of water in the heavy rainy season. He said mining at that location had stopped for about two years and there was a buildup of water, which caused erosion and “a couple thousand gallons of water moved through the bushes to the creek.”
Long term protection
Pointing out that the stakeholders will see that farming and housing activities were getting closer to the watershed, which was definite cause for concern, Wright stressed that while protection of the watershed was a long term project, “We don’t intend to ban all activities but we’re hoping that stakeholders will function in a way that would preserve the integrity of the watershed as much as possible.”
Pointing out that a watershed is an area into which all surface water flows in one direction, Wright said if there is a creek in the watershed, all the water flows to the creek. “So, anything you do within the watershed will end up in the creek.” He added that the Dakoura Creek watershed is a sub watershed of the Demerara watershed. He said there are five sub watersheds in Linden, including Kara Kara and Katabulli.
Wright said that in more developed countries much emphasis is placed on protecting and preserving watersheds. He said apart from the physical assessment of the watershed, there is need for ecological and biological assessment and for all stakeholders to contribute ideas for a better characterisation of the watershed. “By bringing in the stakeholders, everybody brings their expertise and their perception and then everybody owns the process,” Wright said. “The idea is to spot the potential impacts before they occur and put measures in place to stop them from occurring.” According to him, the tour with the stakeholders was just the first part of implementing the plan since all the stakeholders know their respective roles.
According to the report, activities within and adjacent to the Dakoura Creek Watershed potentially threaten the long term sustainability of Dakoura Creek to function in its designated role as the sole source of potable water in Western Linden. These activities include mining, unauthorised logging, farming on the periphery of the watershed, uncontrolled dumping of urban wastes (garbage) and urbanisation.
However, the watershed was reported to be healthy and its various functions are unimpaired. A watershed management plan has been proposed as the best mechanism for the protection and management of the Dakoura Watershed. The report also identifies stakeholders, including public and private sector bodies as well as regulatory agencies that have authority to make interventions under the mandate of existing laws and regulatory mandates to arrest the perceived threats.
While the cited laws and mandates are applicable and relevant, there is no specific guidance or reference to watersheds. Additionally, it is noteworthy, that the Water Council, the entity best suited to advocate for the development of watershed-specific regulations, is nonfunctional.