– as ‘illegal’ sand pit operation gets closer to homes
By Utamu Belle
Residents of the Block 42 squatting area at Amelia’s Ward, Linden in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) are living in fear that their homes may one day collapse, owing to excavation works being carried out in close proximity.
INews understands that several contractors over the course of the past three years have set up and utilised a huge sand pit in the area. However, residents are concerned that the operation has now come in much too close proximity to their homes.
The community, which is now in the process of seeking regularisation, is home to over 700 residents, most of whom are single mothers and their children. Chairman of the area’s Community Policing Group, Hemant Singh, explained that he has lived in the area for 28 years and as far as he was aware, the pit was an illegal one.
Singh said residents fear the worst as they utilise the area where the pit was dug to get to a spring, which is the only source of water in the community. Concerned residents noted that a child fell into the pit some time ago and his body was partly covered. Luckily, he escaped with only minor injuries. Residents complained that several huge trucks could be seen at the sand pit daily as the situation continues to worsen.
“Many different types of contractors coming in. Sometimes all in the night, they would bring flood lights and they would work through till morning…Nobody don’t pay for sand in this area…just come, dig the sand and then leave,” Singh said.
He pointed out that even though he has reached out to several leading authorities, including the Regional Democratic Council and Environmental Department of the Linden Mayor and Town Council (LM&TC), the situation remains the same. He said the LM&TC had promised to erect a signboard to the effect that digging for sand at the area was illegal; however, this was not done. He noted that members of the community also met with several representatives within the municipality over the issue, but to no avail. Singh said he was told by the Regional Chairman that a letter was being sent to Minister of State, Joseph Harmon regarding the issue.
According to Singh, residents are aware that the lands they occupy are owned by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and they were directed to a representative there. The official, he noted, explained that NICIL was unaware of the situation and residents were further directed to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), but an official there was unable to assist.
“They need to stop digging completely,” Singh declared. Another resident said contractors have already removed fencing from a resident’s back yard in order to facilitate their operations.
Another resident pointed out that they were advised by an official that no help could be given since they were squatting and were not in possession of papers for the land. Singh noted that such letters were presently being prepared for NICIL and the Lands and Surveys department.
“We tried with every organisation there is in Linden and everybody who in authority…there is no other option left,” he lamented.
Lewis Marks, who resides closer to the pit, said something has to be done. Mayor Carwyn Holland, when contacted, said there were several meetings and discussions on the issue as he noted that the Council had responded by making checks in the area. He said the area was considered a ‘mined-out’ area, but persons should not be excavating there. Holland said he advised residents to report such incidents, but no report was since received. He added that Deputy Mayor Waneka Arindell had also discussed the issue with the GGMC, and he would be looking at further steps to assist.