Guyana spill: Main issue. (fwd)

Kathi Kitner-Salazar (KITNER@LAW.UFL.EDU)
Tue, 5 Sep 1995 10:46:46 EST

Here's some more, hope it's not getting redundant.
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From: (Pedro Jugo)
Subject: Guyana spill: Main issue. (fwd)
Date sent: 31 Aug 1995 22:03:38 -0500
To: atarraya@MIT.EDU

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From: (Norman Gonsalves)
Newsgroups: soc.culture.caribbean
Subject: Guyana spill: Main issue.
Date: 31 Aug 1995 05:48:01 GMT
Organization: CCnet Communications (510-988-7140 guest)
Lines: 45
Message-ID: <423ieh$>
X-Newsreader: WinVN 0.93.14

The cyanide spill in Guyana's Essequibo River is a tragedy in the
making. As the PAHO report implies, the river's waters have (not yet)
been seriously polluted, but some reports have suggested that Omai mines
plan to continue dumping pollutants into the river on a routine basis.
The town of Bartica, about 70 miles downstream of Omai, is the
gateway to the interior, Guyana's hope of future economic prosperity. The
town pumps raw, untreated water from the Essequibo into its potable water
supply system. Up to recently, this water was pure enough (and delicious)
to drink without any treatment.
The stretch of river from Omai to Bartica is an important
transportation link between the capital Georgetown and most hinterland
locations south of Bartica, including Omai.
In other words, the pollution of this stretch of the Essequibo
River will spell disaster for Guyana's long-term development efforts.
It's a case of "killing the goose that lays the golden egg".
In the current situation, the Guyana government has been caught
unprepared (as usual). It has no protective or punitive environmental
legislation, nor does it have an environmental project review or
monitoring program in place. There are no legal engineering or
environmental standards or codes in Guyana, nor is there any licensing of
professional engineers. Anyone, trained or not, can design or operate a
structure or other facility in Guyana, using any standard, or even a
mixture of standards, he may choose.
The government, in an attempt to create the impression that it
has the situation under control, called an emergency session of
Parliament, and resolved to place all blame for the disaster on the
operators of Omai mines. The issue of protective legislation was not
addressed. Thus, we can blame Omai, but we have still have no yardstick
by which to decide if the company has broken any law or not. Anyone who
may be harmed by cyanide dumped into the river has no legal basis on
which to pursue compensation. What good is it to anyone if you can blame
Omai, but you can't do anything about it?
Opposition elements have also tried to gain political mileage
from this occurence, claiming that the government is "covering up the
issue" and using police brutality to put down protests against Omai and
the spill. The owners of Omai are probably laughing up their sleeves at
how readily we tear at each other's throats, while they get off with
Finally, as Rudy Luck suggests, if any government (or Omai) big
shot feels he can declare the polluted waters safe to drink, he / she
should demonstrate such confidence by drinking a full glass of water from
the polluted area.

Norm in California

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