SURINAME-Concern grows over the safety of the Suriname hydro dam.


PARAMARIBO, Suriname, CMC – Recent developments have raised concerns about the safety of the Afobaka hydro dam in Suriname, with the company that manages the facility worried that economic activities near the hydro dam in recent months could affect the integrity of the structure

“There is a threat of an unmanageable situation in the buffer zone near the main dam,” said Eddy Fränkel, the manager of the Staatsolie Power Company Suriname (SPCS).

In recent weeks gold mining activities have occurred near the four auxiliary dams. At the same time, a fuel service station and supermarket are being built less than 100 meters from the main dam.

Fränkel said successive governments have not acted against the activities occurring in the buffer zone near the dam.

“Permission has now even been granted to an entrepreneur to establish a fuel station very close to the foot of the main dam,” he said, adding that because of the gold mining activities, a residential community has also arisen in the buffer zone complete with a public school.

Fränkel is also concerned that the sale of fuel along the waterway is not made in a responsible manner and fears should there be a spillage, oil slicks form can end up at the dam and the hydropower station.

“The only thing we can do at such a moment is shut down the plant with all the consequences,” said Fränkel, noting that construction activities are now taking place on the mountainside of the dam.

“That is very bad and must not happen. To build, the mountainside is also being deforested,” he said, warning that experts told him this could cause landslides.

During a presentation to journalists at the Afobaka hydroelectric power plant, Fränkel also expressed concern about the gold mining activities near the auxiliary dams, noting the effect of breaching one of the additional dams will be the same as if the main barrier has failed.

Fränkel said he raised the issue during the general meeting of shareholders of Staatsolie this week.

Meanwhile, The Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Dew Sharman, has called on those involved in gold mining activities near the Afobaka dam and the auxiliary dams to stop their activities.

“Don’t let your greed for gold end in a nightmare,” he said in the public session of Parliament that allows legislators to raise current issues.

Sharman said he had received information that illegal gold miners are digging for the precious metal near the dams and that some political leaders go to the site.

“We have no idea what will happen if that dam breaks; what misery that will bring everyone,” Sharman noted.

The reservoir has an area of 1560 square kilometers -135,000 hectares – and was created by constructing a dam in the Suriname River. The main barrier is two kilometers long and 55 meters high.

Experts say the reservoir contains 20 billion cubic meters of water. In the event of a severe dam break, all areas downstream of the lake, including the Surinamese capital Paramaribo, will be flooded within several weeks, according to experts.

Last month, some public panic arose after photos went viral showing damage to the main dam after sustained heavy rains.

The authorities later said that the rains had washed away part of the maintenance road at the foot of the dam and that the barrier itself was not damaged and its integrity was still intact.


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