Education: Geography of Guyana Series 2 – The Hilly Sandy Belt Region – By Lal Balkaran

Published August 23, 2020

Education: Geography of Guyana Series 2 – The Hilly Sandy Belt Region – By Lal Balkaran

This is the second of a four-part documentary on the Geography of Guyana in text and pictures that focusses on the second natural region known as the Hilly and Sandy Clay Belt. It is close to 20 minutes of viewing and consists of over 150 lines of text, almost 80 photographs, some of which are indeed stunning and taken by the author himself, and ten maps.

The documentary profiles and captures the way to look at this region – both physical, economic, cultural, and human. The region lies immediately south of the Coastal Belt and is 150 to 250 kilometers wide. Covering 14 per cent of the country, it extends from Waramuri in the North West to Orealla on the Corentyne river and further downstream to Governor Henry Light’s or Wonotobo Falls on the same river.           

The Hilly Sandy Clay Belt area seals the coastal lands from the heavily forested interior. The region contains some historic ruins of the early Dutch settlers and government and consists of a huge expanse of white and brown sands, scrub lands, savannah grasslands, and low sandy hills with occasional rock croppings. It is home to extensive deposits of bauxite, aluminum ore. Bauxite was first discovered in the area in 1876 but never followed up. It was demand during World War One (1914-18) that led to serious geological exploration for bauxite ore in Guyana.

The Demerara Bauxite Company or Demba, a subsidiary of the Aluminium Company of America (ALCOA) was thus incorporated in 1916 and a year later the first shipment of bauxite was made to the United States. Linden (formerly Mackenzie) and Kwakwani, the two major bauxite towns are located in this region. The white sands support a dense hardwood forest and is also home to a thin forest of the wallaba tree (Eperua,spp.) used for fuel, shingles, fencing, and lighting posts.

The sands in the Hilly Sandy Clay Belt are infertile and cannot support crops. If the trees are removed erosion is rapid and severe. However, some livestock farming, pineapple plants, and French cashew growing, in addition to fishing take place. Eco-tourism with resorts, black water beaches with white sands, and canoeing dot this physical region.

Key places in the region include: Bartica; Kyk-over-al (seat of the early Dutch government in Essequibo from 1616 until 1743 when it moved to Fort Island); Cheddi B. Jagan International Airport; Takama in the Berbice Savannahs where the Rupununi Cattle Trail ended; Kwakwani; Linden; St. Cuthbert’s Mission; Santa Mission; Soesdyke-Linden Highway; Fort Nassau (built in 1627 as the seat of the early Dutch government in Berbice and “Cradle of the 1763 Berbice Slave Rebellion): The Berbice Mounds; Orealla; and Wonotobo or Governor Henry Light’s Falls.

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