‘We have no authority on our own land’ – Tasserene Toshao … as miners continue to pollute waterway

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An influx in the reckless and environmentally unfriendly mining activities in the Akawaio Village of Tasserene, Upper Mazaruni in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) is generating aggravated hardships for the indigenous inhabitants who are now forced to consume heavily polluted waters, simply because they are yet to receive legal authority over their land to take matters into their own hands, given that Government appears to be lagging behind in addressing the situation.
Tasserene Toshao John Spencer is imploring the relevant authorities to urgently intervene to dissuade the negative impacts of mining in the community in order to bring relief to some 300 frustrated residents who are finding it challenging to conduct everyday activities, such as cooking, washing laundry and bathing.
Tasserene villagers have been waiting for over 10 years to acquire their land title in order to gain the requisite authority to deal with the excessive mining in the area, which is now causing pollution to the community’s primary potable water source.
Tasserene Toshao, John Spencer
Tasserene Toshao, John Spencer

In 2007, the community applied for an Amerindian Land Title. In August 2012, then President Donald Ramotar handed over the “land title certificate” to then Toshao of the village Alvin Joseph; however, the titles were almost immediately withdrawn subsequent to an objection filed by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) based on certain hindrances which needed to be addressed.

-INews understands that the situation was dealt with accordingly. Though the issues were resolved, Tasserene village was never granted its title.
As a result of having no authority over their land, more and more mining blocks, permits and concessions are being issued for mining to take place in the indigenous community.
In September 2015, an addition of 60 new mining blocks covered the lands claimed by the village and according to the Toshao; this number appears to be steadily increasing.
“We don’t have authority on our own land and with the mining influx, more excavators going inside and we can’t do anything,” he lamented. 
The Amerindian leader explained that the situation was initially bearable since the mining took place at a great distance away from the village and the creek; however, only recently, the mining activities escalated and miners are now conducting operations a stone’s throw away from the community.
Spencer related that he made several attempts to engage the miners on the issue but they reportedly refused to cooperate. He also made contact with the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock who promised to dispatch a team to the area sometime next month to deal with the situation. However, Spencer believes the Ministry could be more rigorous in their approach and perhaps do more to assist the Amerindian residents.
On the matter of the land title, the Toshao said the Minister gave little details on the progress. “So far, all the Government said is that they are working on it,” Spencer related.
Moreover, he expressed concerns that GGMC officers would visit the community without consulting the Village Council.
“When GGMC officers come to our village, they do not consult with the Village Council. They go and do their own thing in the fields and then they go back to Georgetown and we are left without answers,” he lamented, while claiming that the rights of the people are being violated.
“We need Government’s intervention as early as possible. Our land is being destroyed by the miners in the area. Tasserene residents are aching,” expressed a concerned Toshao.
He noted too that the residents are ready and willing to work with the Government in addressing the situation.

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