DRAFT April 18, 1996
I. Basic Features of Natural Resources and the Environment in Guyana
A. Population Distribution
B. Poverty and the Environment
C. Environmental Features of the Coastal Zone
G. Land and Agriculture
J. Waste Management and Pollution Control
K. Private Sector Environmental Impacts
L. Cultural Resources
M. Public Awareness
II. Issues and Constraints Facing Natural Resource Management
A. Past Evolution of Policies
B. Current Policies, Legislation and Institutions
III. Issues and Constraints Facing Natural Resource Management
B. Constraints to Effective Management of Natural Resources
IV. Sectoral and Cross-Sectoral Objectives
V. Policy Recommendations and Their Technical Justification
A. Fundamental Principles Guiding Environmental Policies
B. The Environmental Protection Agency
C. Coastal Zone Management
E. Biodiversity, National Parks and Protected Areas
H. Land and Agriculture
K. Waste Management and Pollution Control
L. Amerindian Issues
VI. Recommended Legislative Changes
A. The Legislative Reform Programme
B. The Environmental Protection Bill , the EPA and its Functions
This Chapter of the National Development Strategy presents a comprehensive environmental policy for Guyana for the first time. The environmental policy is designed to promote the sustainable management of natural resources and the preservation of a healthy environment as an integral part of our country's development agenda. In recent years significant strides have been made toward laying the basis for such a policy, through the preparation and Parliamentary approval of the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) in 1994, which was itself based on the National Forestry Action Plan (NFAP) of 1989 and the Environmental Profile that was prepared for UNCED in 1992. More recently, the Government has formulated an Environmental Protection Bill, that will create an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the NEAP. The policies outlined in this chapter are derived in significant measure from the NEAP and from the legislation already formulated by Government.
The juridical basis for a national environmental policy is rooted in the Constitution of Guyana, which states:
Article 2:25 Every citizen has a duty to participate in activities to improve the environment and protect the health of the nation.
Article 2:36 In the interest of the present and future generations the State will protect rational use of its fauna and flora, and will take all appropriate measures to conserve and improve the environment.
Guyana's environmental resources are abundant, but the need for an environmental policy is becoming progressively more apparent, especially in light of the contamination of water resources that originates from industries, agriculture and households; the problem of coastal erosion; the increasing danger of flooding; the deforestation of some areas close to the country's main concentrations of population; evidence of the need to regulate the wildlife trade; and the decline of some coastal marine species.
At the same time, our environmental policy is founded in the belief that economic growth and environmental sustainability are compatible, that indeed the latter is one of the bases for ensuring that enduring prosperity can be achieved for all Guyanese. To promote economic growth in a sound environmental context requires objective efforts to identify and diagnose environmental problems, courage in identifying solutions, and a willingness on the part of all the population to participate in developing and implementing corrective measures. Within Government, our new Environmental Protection Agency will take the lead in identifying problems and proposing solutions, but all agencies will participate in implementing them, and the private sector's cooperation will be critical to successful implementation in all areas.
Environmental issues arise because of the impact of human activities on natural resources, affecting both their quantity and their quality, and the consequent impact in the reverse direction that a degraded environment has on human health and on the economic costs of human activities. In general, environmental problems can be divided into the following two broad concerns:
(i) Resource degradation, or reductions in the availability of natural resources; and
(ii) Resource contamination, or reductions in the quality of natural resources.
Examples of resource degradation include overfishing stocks of certain species; deforestation of mangrove areas, which in turn leads to problems of reduction of stocks of some marine species and also of increased danger of flooding; overcutting of inland forests, which leads to loss of natural habitats and loss of soils and hence also to loss of water supplies in watersheds; and overcutting of selected forest species, which leads to loss of that economic resource over the longer run and a reduction in the nation's biodiversity.
The most common examples of resource contamination in Guyana are those related to water pollution: mercury, cyanide and other wastes from mining; untreated human and animal wastes in water supplies; and wastes from many industries in water tables. But also air quality is a public health concern, especially in the case of Linden, where suspended mineral particulates can affect public health.
This document provides a detailed review of these issues, and then establishes a policy framework for dealing with them in the future through the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
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Our natural resource base is dominated by forests, which cover 80 percent of the country's 215,000 square kilometers. These rainforests contain great biodiversity with a rich variety of plant and animal life, including endangered wildlife and several unique species endemic to the country. Guyana is one of only thirteen countries in the world that retain their tropical forests virtually intact. The vast tropical rainforest influences temperature, precipitation and air turbulence, and it is an important factor in mitigating global warming. The rainforest also shelters watersheds, areas of remarkable beauty, and potential for scientific research and tourism. Mineral deposits are also extensive and include mainly bauxite, gold, and diamonds. The other principal elements of the natural resource base include the abundant quantities of freshwater itself; agricultural land, distributed mainly along the coast and in hinterland savannahs; and extensive fisheries resources.
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The historical pattern of economic development consists of concentrating human and physical assets in Guyana's narrow coastal strip and, particularly, in Georgetown. Estimates of population density in Region 4 (which includes Georgetown) range from 360 persons per sq. km. upward; by contrast, the density in the country as a whole is only 9 persons per sq. km. While this coastal concentration brings certain conveniences for most of the population in transport, communication and other fields, its costs include the following:
- the high investment and maintenance costs of sea defenses to protect people, land, and economic assets from tidal flooding;
- damage to the basic infrastructure for water, sanitation, and transport that arises from occasional flooding of coastal areas;
- crop losses and the costs of maintenance and operation of the related drainage and irrigation schemes, and the costs of their environmental impacts; and
- contamination of aquifers from industrial and residential activities.
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1. The Environment and Low-Income Groups
An intensification of poverty in the whole society accompanied the protracted economic decline experienced in the 1970s and 1980s. Per capita income at US $686 in 1994 is one of the lowest in the Western hemisphere and had declined by almost one-third compared with 1980. Some studies on the extent of poverty put as much as 67 percent to 75 percent of the population below the poverty line in 1989. While there are issues concerning the methodology of these measurements, and the percentage in poverty has declined in recent years, poverty is indisputably a substantial problem (Chapter 17).
A link between poverty and environment exists to some extent, despite the low population density. The most obvious examples are: the cutting of trees for charcoal and the reaping of mangroves for household use and cottage industry tanning; lack of sufficient sanitary facilities with the concomitant dangers for the purity of the aquifers; overfishing of inshore marine resources; and the environmental damage caused by the itinerant labor that characterises small-scale gold mining with its proliferation of sites. These activities have long-term destructive potential. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this linkage is that the environmental damage attributable to poverty in turn reduces further the level of well-being of the poor, by making their water less clean, their fuelwood more scarce, and their fish catches more sparse.
2. Environmental Consequences of the Weakened Public Sector
The most visible poverty-environment link is to be found in the impact of the poverty of public sector institutions on environmental degradation. As is well known, a sharp decline in fiscal viability associated with the economic crisis led to a severe deterioration of the social and economic infrastructure, with grave consequences for environmental health, sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment.
The financial and manpower resource constraints at the Central, Regional and Local Government levels eroded, over time, the capacity to maintain and expand infrastructure. The evidence of collapse of the social and economic infrastructure has been everywhere -- in the breaches in the sea defenses and their consequences, the malfunctioning of the drainage and irrigation systems in coastal areas, the breakdown of the management of solid and liquid waste, the deterioration in water supply and electricity systems, the unavailability of affordable housing and consequent rise in squatting. In recent years the Government has started to come to effective grips with some of these problems, and this National Development Strategy is designed to maintain that forward momentum and broaden the economic and social advances.
3. Breakdown of the Social Infrastructure and its Consequences
The concentration of the population on the coastal strip below sea level means that most of the solid and liquid wastes of the country are generated in areas that are not well drained. Underfunding of the municipal authorities has resulted in a near total breakdown of solid waste management in Georgetown and in a lack of adequate maintenance of the drainage canals in the city (although the latter has begun to improve recently). The population's access to potable water has declined. Poor and crowded housing conditions characterise the more densely populated coastal belt. Unavailability of affordable housing for large numbers of the working population has led to squatter settlements along the embankment of established waterways, like the Lamaha canal, that convey water to the public water supply system.
One manifestation of the pervasive environmental problems is the extraordinary frequency of communicable diseases, with a high incidence of water and vector-borne diseases. Cholera, filaria, dengue, malaria, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis, typhoid, hepatitis and even cancer are largely environmental problems, some of them associated with pollution of the environment by chemical and bacteriological agents that is attendant on the nonexistence or the breakdown of potable water and waste disposal systems.
Poverty-related illnesses have been an increasing cause of death. The life expectancy declined from 70 years to 64.9 years during the period 1985-1992, which is about the same as that found in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Because of the deterioration of medical facilities and a serious shortage of staff, supplies and equipment, plus an increase in poverty levels over the past 28 years, levels of infant, child and maternal mortality rates are unacceptably high (Chapter 19). However, it is important to note that life expectancy has ceased to decline and the national health services are reorganising themselves to better deal with some of these problems. What is now needed is a vigorous environmental policy to complement those efforts.
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1. The Natural and Human Setting
The principal settled areas are uniquely dependent on sound environmental management. The coastal plain occupies approximately 7 percent of the total area of the country and extends along the entire 430 km. of the Atlantic coast, varying in width from 26 to 77 km. Five major wetland systems are distinguished in the coastal plain: the marine ecosystem of the sea coast, the estuarine ecosystems of tidal wetlands of the river mouths, and the riverain, palustrine and lacustrine ecosystems. The fertile plain consists of surface clays underlain by clays of the Demerara and Coropina formations. Extending for as much as five miles inland, much of the coastal plain lies between 0.5 metres and 1.0 metres below high tide levels. The shore zone consists of coastal works, mud banks, a mangrove belt and sand flats, all of which serve to protect the plain from flooding.
Ninety percent of the estimated population of 751,000 resides in the coastal zone. Georgetown has a population of approximately 200,000 in its greater metropolitan area. Agriculture is still the major economic activity, accounting for 24 percent of GDP and 35-40 percent of employment. Except for forestry, all agricultural products (sugarcane, rice, other crops, livestock, and fishing) come from the coastal area. Most of the industry is found in Georgetown and along the remaining coast, with only a small concentration in Linden and north of Linden along the Demerara river. Other major economic activities and investments outside Georgetown and the coast consist mainly of large and small scale mining, mostly on major rivers. Groundwater provides 90 percent of the potable water supply and is extracted mainly from the coastal artisan basin.
Complex interlinked erosion and flooding issues threaten the viability of the intensely concentrated economic base. Sea level rise and possible coastal subsidence add to the pressures on the sea defences and, inevitably, lead to greater coastal erosion and flooding. The shorezone, which serves as the natural line of defence against coastal erosion, is subject to erosion from floating mud shoals in the Atlantic that originate in the Amazon, exacerbated by destruction of mangroves and by removal of sand for construction on shore. The system of water conservancies and drainage and irrigation works in the coastal plain, which have also suffered from lack of maintenance, cause periodic fresh water flooding.
2. Coastal Erosion
Coastal erosion has been taking place at a relatively rapid rate. A comparison of the 1783 and 1970 coastlines around Liliendall shows a regression of almost 1 kilometre (erosion rates of -4 to -5 metres annually). Evidence of this retreat can be seen all along the coast -- old sluice gates form isles far out to sea, and old shorelines and sand ridges run parallel to the present shoreline. Coastal erosion has many causes, some natural and some man-made, and distinguishing between the effects of each is difficult given the paucity of baseline data.
Mud shoals have had and continue to have an unquantifiable impact on coastal erosion. These shoals move along the Brazil, Suriname, Guyana coast from east to west in a series of waves and macro ripples at an approximate speed of 1.3 km per year. They are in constant motion and the refraction and concentration of wave energy between ripples greatly increases the capacity of the shoals to erode the coastal area. On the eastern side of the shoal, the coast accumulates the mud that is colonized by mangroves. However, as the mud shoal moves westward, the mangroves are unable to survive the wave attack and erosion takes place.
Mangroves are a first line of defence against wave action and storms on the coast and also provide a habitat for juvenile fish and shrimp. The construction of drainage systems for agricultural production projects in the coastal zone may have adversely impacted mangroves, as was evident once the MMA-ADA drainage and irrigation scheme was in operation. Mangroves are also plundered for fuelwood and for use in construction and tanning. No clear picture of the extent of the degradation of the mangroves is available, but prudence dictates that they should be protected from further destruction to help prevent further erosion of the coastline and also to preserve the breeding grounds for some marine species. See Chapters 31 and 40 of this Strategy for further comments on this issue.
Sea level rise is another possible cause of coastal erosion. Tide gauge readings in Georgetown from 1960 to 1981 showed a rise of 9 cm. in the relative level of the sea. Engineers in the Hydraulics Division have observed water levels reaching higher up the sea walls. The observed rise in water levels, however, may be partly attributable to subsidence of the coastal zone, caused by the extraction of fresh water from the coastal aquifers. At present the data are inadequate to determine how much of the observed water level rise might be due to subsidence and how much is due to actual sea level rise.
3. Flooding and its Costs
The coastal plain is subject to flooding from both sea water intrusion and from fresh water overflows. Flooding destroys the value of the country's physical capital and its productivity, e.g., agricultural lands normally remain out of production for at least a year once flooded by saline water. Floods also have serious public health consequences in coastal areas. In Georgetown, sewage is discharged untreated through an outfall into the mouth of the Demerara river and during high tides and flooding this sewage is returned inland. Other areas use septic tanks and pit latrines, which may contribute to pollution of groundwater and, during flooding, surface waters.
For the past two decades, lack of maintenance, mainly because of budgetary constraints, has seriously weakened the sea defences. In 1991 more than 25 breaches of the sea wall flooded agricultural and residential areas. One breach at Cornelia on Leguan Island resulted in more than 1,000 acres of rice land being flooded. Since 1993 responsibility for maintenance of the sea defences was transferred from regional authorities to the Hydraulics Division, but the pervasive lack of funding and staff affects this Division too, and maintenance of these critical defence works is not yet at the desired standard. However, a new maintenance and rehabilitation programme is in place (Chapter 40) and so this concern should abate in coming years. The problem of contamination of groundwater, however, is still not being addressed systematically.
An intricate system of water conservancies and drainage and irrigation has been constructed to control flooding and overcome the seasonality of rainfall for coastal agriculture. However, for lack of maintenance, drainage ditches are often silted up or clogged with garbage, the mechanical pumps fail and sluice gates that control the flow of water often do not function properly, leading to frequent fresh water flooding. At high tides the flooding is exacerbated because gravity drainage seaward has to be blocked. The drainage and irrigation systems have profoundly altered the natural surface water regime, which is likely to have significant environmental repercussions. Nevertheless, no structured monitoring of such effects is conducted, except in the MMA-ADA Project (see below).
4. Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Even though the coastal zone supports the majority of the population and the main economic activities, there is no formal coastal zone management plan or strategy for the multiple uses to which these resources may be put. Many agencies have shorezone management responsibilities, including the Environment Unit, the Hydraulics Division, the Hydro-Meteorology Department and Fisheries Department, and the Central Planning and Housing Department. This last agency is responsible for planning and zoning in urban and rural settlements, the implementation of standards and regulations and development control. Government has recognised that improved coastal zone management depends on an integrated approach. In 1991 Government established a subcommittee on coastal zone management, formed by representatives from the major agencies dealing with the coastal zone. The next step should be more complete incorporation of coastal communities into the process of developing plans for the coastal zone and implementing them.
D. Forestry, Biodiversity and National Parks and Protected Areas
Chapter 30 of this National Development Strategy provides relevant information on the forestry sector in Guyana. Of the total estimated forest area of 65,000 square miles (169,000 km2), 34,000 square miles (87,800 km2) lie within the gazetted State Forest boundaries. The forest resources are characterised by the following:
(i) heterogeneity - there are over 100 tree species
(ii) relatively few species that are of commercial importance
(iii) the small average size of forest trees
(iv) most of the commercial timber species are dense heavy hardwoods, which according to the Forestry Sector National Development Strategy, make up an average of 80 percent of the exploited species.
Approximately 2.5 million hectares of forest lands are considered not exploitable for timber with present technology. The total volume of standing timber in the exploitable forest area is estimated at more than 350 million cubic metres, of which hardwoods account for just less than 90 percent. An area of 3.6 million hectares of forested land is accessible for exploitation, and approximately 2.4 million hectares have been allocated for harvesting. Many rivers that could provide access to the forests are not navigable because of waterfalls and rapids. The forests that are closest to navigable water have been logged for commercial species.
The forestry sector employs about 20,000 people and produces some 218,000 cubic metres of timber annually. Foreign exchange generated by forest products exports doubled during 1994 to approximately US$15 million. The sector is again set to double its export earnings by mid-1996 if plywood exports reach and maintain their target of 10,000 cubic metres per month (report to Ministry of Finance, August 1995, Vincente Molinos).
There are seventeen (17) concessionaires operating under Timber Sales Agreements (TSAs). The TSAs are issued for areas >60,000 acres (24,000 ha). The large concessionaires have significant investments in plant and equipment and convey exclusive harvesting rights for 15-25 years. Most of the concessionaires concentrate on logging the endemic greenheart (Ocotea rodiaei), and eight of the concessionaires export regularly. All the concessionaires have integrated logging and sawmill operations in the interior, concentrated in the Essequibo and Demerara areas.
Small scale loggers have operated with State Forest Permissions (SFPs), generally one year in term, which grant rights to a specified volume of timber within a prescribed area. There are at present 486 SFPs for areas <20,000 acres (8,100 ha) covering approximately 4,126,230 acres (1,669,801 ha). SFPs were usually issued to smaller operators who produce for the domestic market. About 1.2 million hectares have been covered by SFPs and most of the log production flows to small sawmills concentrated in the Berbice and Demerara areas. Minor forest operators also worked with SFPs in the dry evergreen forests of the Demerara area close to Georgetown, Linden, and the populated coastal settlements. The SFPs are being eliminated under the new forestry policy (see Chapter 30 of this National Development Strategy), because the shortness of their term encouraged a mentality of mining the timber resource.
Monitoring of forestry operations by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) is only nominal because of shortages of staff and equipment, limited funding and absence of a good data base. Large scale concessionaires, small scale loggers, and minor forest products operators still pursue forestry activities with virtually no monitoring by the GFC.
The environmental impacts of logging vary with the size of the concession and the conditions attached to the logging permits. Each stage of the logging activity has a separate impact on land, soil, and water. Because of lack of monitoring and regulation, the environmental impacts of logging activities can only be described in qualitative terms, and the sources often disagree as to the seriousness of the various impacts. The following are perceived to be the main impacts from logging activities.
a. Exploitation of the greenheart
Greenheart is the best known timber species and is of such intense commercial interest that foresters do not harvest other species in those areas where the greenheart is most concentrated and of best quality. It accounts for only 1.5 percent of the stand merchantable volume but provides nearly 40 percent of the total volume of roundwood production. Because of lack of monitoring, conclusive evidence of over-harvesting of the greenheart is not available, but ongoing studies may reveal the true status of this species.
Until recently, efforts to commercialise other species in export markets, to take the pressure off the potentially dwindling greenheart resource, have been only partially effective. Only smaller producers selling on the domestic market have harvested a significant proportion of other species. The high cost of shipping from Guyana constrains exports of species other than the greenheart to North America. Such costs are higher than shipping these same products from Africa and the Pacific. In the case of the greenheart, strong market demand overcomes these factors. Port facilities are also inadequate (though they are being improved), causing costly delays in loading and only small vessels can take a full load.
Recently, certain private sector initiatives suggest that marketing possibilities for other species and for non-tree forest products may have improved. The largest and most recent concessionaire, the Barama Company Limited, has established an integrated logging and plywood production system based on harvesting about twelve plywood species. Barama's operation represents a technological and commercial breakthrough for the utilisation of large quantities of lesser known species and more intensive utilisation of forests. The company contracted the Edinburgh Centre for Tropical Forests (ECTF) to undertake monitoring of its environmental impacts and research to benefit its operations.
b. Impacts on forest ecosystems
Concessionaires are required to submit Forest Management Plans (FMPs) as a condition of the TSA, but they have not observed this requirement in the past. Therefore, the long term sustainability of the selective harvesting system used is unknown. Several actions of loggers provide cause for concern. Careless felling and extraction due to under-skilled, poorly supervised, chain saw operators and skidder drivers can result in unnecessary damage to the remaining stand, which is likely to result in lower harvests next time around. Seed trees are not usually retained, wildlife important to seed dispersal are not safeguarded, protective buffer strips along watercourses are not always respected and production demands defer to the speed of the operation rather than to selectivity of harvesting. With one exception, there are no restricted areas within logging concessions that conserve representative areas of productive forest types in their unlogged condition. Consequently, comparison of the ecological condition of the logged forests with the unlogged, once the first full cutting cycles are completed, will not be possible, thereby hampering monitoring of compliance with the FMP.
c. Impacts on soils and rivers
The main impacts of forestry exploitation on rivers and streams are: increased turbidity caused by soil erosion from logging, increased BOD from the discharge of organic waste from sawmilling, and oil pollution from the discharge of petroleum products.
GFC has already issued regulations to protect rivers from the effects of logging wastes, which are automatically included in each FMP. The regulations require the maintenance of 50-metre buffer strips of forest along the river banks. Nevertheless, in some cases when such buffer strips are established, the river banks are demolished by the missile dredges of largely unregulated gold miners. Consequently, the logging waste often slips into the river causing turbidity, with consequent adverse impacts on aquatic life and on the navigability of the rivers. GFC has not yet recommended procedures for the safe storage of oil and fuel away from watercourses nor does it have the capacity to monitor such storage effectively.
Proper disposal of sawmill waste has long been an intractable problem. About 60 percent of the average saw log remains in the yards as waste in the form of slabs, ends, and sawdust. Most mills heap this waste on the riverbanks and it eventually spills over or is pushed into the water, raising BOD levels and hampering aquatic life. The Essequibo area is estimated to generate 50-60 thousand cubic metres of sawmill waste each year.
Recently, some concessionaires have started exploring the possibility of utilising the waste as a source of energy. (A pilot project (No. 34) for such conversion was proposed in the NFAP.) Currently, two steam producing boilers fueled by sawmill waste power the Willems Timber and Trading Limited mill at Kaow Island. The Company has also experimented with producing charcoal from sawmill ends in portable kilns. A. Mazaharally Sawmill Limited has acquired a turbine generator to produce electricity from its sawmill wastes. Current efforts at using sawmill waste as a fuel have made little impact on the problem of river contamination, but there may be scope for the conversion of sawmill waste into briquettes using wood densification technology.
Forestry exploitation, as practised in here, does not lay bare large expanses of soil or lead to serious soil erosion and land slides at all the logging sites. For economic reasons, concessionaires avoid logging in excessively wet conditions, when the soil is most prone to erosion. The forestry research programme at the Barama concession includes studying the impact of forest operations on soil properties, with a specific focus on soil compaction, erosion and loss of fertility. Tropenbos has been conducting an ecological and forestry research study at the DTL concession at Mabura Hill on the impacts of logging activities on soil properties. The results of such studies are not yet known but will be made available to GFC so that the findings can be incorporated into forestry policy.
d. Forest fires
Incidences of illegally set forest fires have caused losses of forest resources. The principal causes of such fires are untended charcoal burning pits and vandalism. The damage from these forest fires could be contained if specific areas were designated for charcoal burning at each camp site and if permittees of the SFP, TSA and WCL were required to report, and, where possible, to attempt to put out fires within forested areas. Monitoring, especially during the dry season, could be the dual responsibility of concessionaires and the local communities.
e. Forest management
The management of the forests has not been sufficiently studied to generate a proven silviculture system. In-depth inventories are lacking as are data on growth either in the undisturbed natural forest or in logged-over areas.
The Government emphasised its interest in promoting sustainable forestry development in Guyana through the preparation of the National Forestry Action Plan (NFAP) in 1989. A round-table meeting of the donor community in February 1992, resulted in donor pledges for ten priority projects from the NFAP totalling US$8.6 million. Implementation of the NFAP has continued with the recent appointment of a national coordinator. CIDA agreed to fund an Interim Forestry Project (IFP) that began in 1989, as a bridge between NFAP preparation and implementation. Meanwhile, with assistance from Germany, Government is proceeding to formulate and implement a forest land-use policy, related legislation and an appropriate administrative structure to ensure the sustainable use of its forest resources.
As a further expression of its commitment to protection of the tropical rainforest, the Guyana Government advised the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 1989, that the country would set aside 360,000 hectares of its Amazon rainforest for a pilot research project under Commonwealth auspices. Since then the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have begun to finance the establishment of an International Centre for Research and Training for the Sustainable Management of Tropical Forests in the Iwokrama rainforest. This research project will investigate ways that the tropical rainforest can maintain desired levels of biological diversity while supporting economic activity.
In recognition of the significance of its biodiversity assets, Guyana signed the UN Convention on Biological Diversity during the Earth Summit of 1992. The Convention commits signatories to adopt regulations to conserve their biological resources. In this context, as stated in the NEAP: "the Government is committed to saving biodiversity, studying biodiversity and using biodiversity sustainably and equitably. The Government is also aware of the need to ensure that the ownership of intellectual property rights, including knowledge and customary and traditional practices of local people, is adequately and effectively protected. However, to date, Guyana lacks specific legislation to facilitate such actions."
Although our wealth in biological diversity is unquestionable, there is a general paucity of information on its exact nature and extent. However, some 8,000 species of flora, of which half are endemic, have been identified in the biogeographic Guiana region. Guyana provides habitats for a variety of fauna and is deemed to have one of the richest mammalian faunas of any comparably sized area in the world. There are nearly 1,200 vertebrates, of which 728 are birds, 198 mammals, 137 reptiles and 105 amphibians. Of these, CITES currently lists 44 as in danger of extinction. The avifauna in its habitat in the widespread rain and seasonal forests is known to be rich. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of data about the country's reptiles, amphibians and fish; only three surveys approved by CITES have been done in the past ten years: two for caimans and one for boid snakes.
Guyana's forests have abundant wildlife, but there are no reliable population surveys of commercial and other species. Therefore, there is no measurement of whether wildlife harvests exceed sustainable levels, nor whether and when closed harvest seasons should be established annually for commercial species. Wildlife exports were estimated at US$800,000 in 1992, mostly from the sale of birds, particularly parrots and macaws. Guyana is the fifth largest exporter of birds in the world. Besides the seventeen authorised exporters of wildlife, the trade is a major source of income for thousands of trappers (mostly Amerindians), intermediaries, carpenters who build holding stations, cages and export boxes, and farmers who provide food for the birds and animals. Operating without the benefit of population or biological surveys, Government devised, with CITES and the World Trade Monitoring Unit, an empirical export licence formula to set export quotas.
In December 1992, Government decided not to issue any licences for wildlife exports in 1993 as a prelude to passage of the Conservation of Wildlife Bill. Despite a general lack of public awareness about wildlife issues, there is a strong lobby in and outside Guyana against the wildlife trade, a trade that generates considerable export revenues as well as domestic income and employment. Government has put in place a system for training wardens and monitoring the wildlife trade, in order to fully comply with the pertinent international conventions. Arrangements also have been made with the San Diego Wildlife Park for continuing assistance in this area. Given these advances, Government decided to lift the wildlife export ban in September 1995.
The sand and shell beaches between the Moruka river mouth and Waini Point on the northwest coast are the nesting grounds for four species of marine turtles: the leatherback, Dermochelys coriaceae; the hawksbill, Eretmochelys imbricata; the olive ridley, Lepidochelys olivacea and the green turtle, Chelonia mydas. Despite legislation to protect the turtles, intensive exploitation of the turtles and their eggs for food has resulted in ever decreasing populations and the threat of their extinction. To protect the turtles, Government has required that turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) be installed on shrimp nets. In addition, the Government will work with communities of artisanal fisherman to help them develop economic alternatives to hunting turtles and their eggs, and to educate them in the vulnerability of the turtle population to that kind of predation.
Studies on various topics related to biodiversity have been conducted in specific areas by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Conservation International, the Smithsonian Institute, Global 2000, and the U.K. Natural Resources Institute. Most of these studies emphasize the need for an established system of national parks, by which the extensive biodiversity resources can be nurtured and protected.
3. National Parks and Protected Areas
Government is committed to ensuring the integrity of forest systems, the conservation and protection of selected forest areas with high species diversity as genetic reservoirs for the future, the allocation of outstanding natural areas for recreational purposes, and the preservation of the country's historical and cultural heritage. This commitment is confirmed in the NEAP. The National Parks Commission Act of 1977 gives management authority to the National Parks Commission (NPC), but the NPC is under-funded and more oriented to urban recreational parks.
The Protected Areas project in the NFAP was given high priority and pledges of funding at the international round-table in February 1993. Such a system will incorporate ongoing work to identify the places of special natural, scientific, and cultural interest. The NFAP calls for the protection of the Kaieteur National Park and 14 other natural areas, including a biosphere reserve in the southwest (for which a Guyana Biosphere Reserve Bill has already been drafted) and a World Heritage Site at Mt. Roraima. Conservation International completed a rapid assessment of the Kanuku mountains and the EEC financed a study for the creation of a protected area in the Kanuku Mountains and adjoining savanna areas of the Rupununi region. Consultations with Amerindian communities in these areas will be ongoing as their involvement and agreement will be critical to the success of these protected zones.
Kaieteur National Park is the only legally established protected area in the country. Legislation establishing Kaieteur was passed in 1929 and the Kaieteur National Park Act of 1973 provides the legal framework for its constitution and management. With no land-use planning in effect, the park is not demarcated on the ground and only one park ranger safeguards the ecological integrity of the entire protected area. As presently constituted, the park comprises the falls, the greater part of the gorge below, and part of the Potaro river above the falls to the south. Currently, the designated area counts with only minimal infrastructure. Full authority over the park is not clearly defined as the GGMC, GFC, and the Land and Surveys Commission each have different responsibilities in the park.
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Forest cover in the watersheds helps the infiltration of rainwater into the ground which then charges aquifers; the forest cover protects against flash flooding and soil erosion. Some forest cover has been lost to competing activities, such as bauxite mining, agriculture, and harvesting of fuelwood and poles. The watersheds in the coastal plain and in the sandy rolling lands that supply the conservancies have not been protected or managed for water production. The forests nearest to urban centres and the coast have been heavily exploited for fuelwood by household and industrial users and have also suffered repeated wildfires from charcoal and agricultural production. The wallaba (eperua) forest of the White Sands peneplain, which has been harvested for telephone and electricity poles, has been degraded to such an extent that regeneration of the original dry evergreen forest is virtually nonexistent. As much as 200,000 hectares are believed to be unable to regenerate spontaneously.
Most of the water courses from the watersheds are also subject to competing demands: for drinking and irrigation water and as receptacles for domestic and industrial waste. Consequently, much of the coastal plain's supply of potable and irrigation water is believed to be polluted. Deforestation may also explain the more frequent and less predictable flooding of the coastal plain. While no clear picture emerges of the extent of the deforestation, potential pressures from logging could have serious consequences for the critical watersheds unless preventive measures are taken ahead of time.
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Until 1994 bauxite was the most important subsector in the mining industry, contributing about 8 percent of GDP and 38 percent of merchandise exports. The previously privately-owned Linden and Berbice bauxite operations were nationalised in the mid-seventies. With the change of policies towards a market-oriented economy, Government has begun to enter into joint venture operations and encourage private investment in the sector. Despite the lack of promise of some bauxite operations, the mining sector has potential for further development and could be a source of enhanced revenues and employment, particularly in gold and diamonds.
The exploitation of economic minerals is currently limited to bauxite, gold, alluvial deposits of diamonds, and some silica sand. Some gold mines, a manganese mine, and an alumina refinery are no longer in operation. Two previously issued licences for offshore and inland petroleum prospecting did not yield useful results, but new licences were issued in the latter part of 1995. Except for the large-scale operation at Omai, private sector mining consists mostly of small operators exploiting limited tracts for gold and diamonds. Despite their considerable potential, official gold and diamonds exports amounted to only US $15 million in 1990, or 6 percent of total official exports. This estimate may rise as a result of Government's recent success in cracking down on illegal gold exports. The current improved policy regime for foreign investors and the establishment of a more realistic price for gold purchased by the Gold Board have resulted in several agreements with large firms for increased exploitation and in a higher level of declared gold production by small scale miners, and this trend is expected to continue.
Given the vast scale of our natural resources and the relative isolation of the mining activities from major population centers, the environmental impact of these activities initially was thought to be localised, but concern about the environmental impacts from the various mining activities has heightened with the recent cyanide spill at Omai. Impacts are different for each of the mining subsectors and they vary between large and small scale gold projects, and between early and more recent bauxite projects. The large bauxite projects were initiated at time when an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not a mandatory requirement and when no constraints whatsoever were imposed by environmental regulation and inspection. The licencing system for small scale gold and diamond mining activities does not impose any regulatory controls. Both the large and small operations have the sole objective of maximising profits, without concern for the natural resources consumed or affected by the activity. Standard techniques to prevent pollution have not been applied and mitigatory measures have largely been bypassed.
Data with which to quantify the extent and severity of the impacts is lacking for every activity. No monitoring has been performed and, therefore, no quantification of the environmental impacts is available. Where an EIA has been submitted by the investor and approved by Government, environmental impacts could be prevented or mitigated appropriately. Government, however, has had limited capacity to monitor compliance to date.
2. Water Pollution and River Degradation
Degradation of rivers and streams and pollution of surface and ground waters result from all the mining activities. Different point sources of water contamination and river degradation can be identified, but, given the absence of environmental monitoring, other point and non-point sources of pollution could well exist. Because of the absence of environmental controls, the extent and severity of the pollution and degradation cannot be quantified or, even, always qualified. Furthermore, Government agencies are not equipped to monitor and analyse water samples, particularly for chemical contamination. Examples of water pollution and river degradation that cause concern include:
- Earlier discharges of residual cyanide into the Omai River.
- The recent failure of the tailings dam at Omai with a consequent discharge of large amounts of cyanide into waterways, killing aquatic life in the Omai River.
- The tailings dam at LINMINE that discharges decant water with a pH of 4.5, via the local stream, into the Demerara river.
- The release of mercury via the washing process in small scale gold operations.
- Sedimentation in the Berbice River from the canal at the Aroaima project.
- The use of "missile dredges" in the Essequibo River basin, which have a devastating effect on the forest and river areas in which they operate, causing: destruction of river banks and pollution of rivers from the chemicals used in the extraction process and from the diesel fuel used to run the dredging machines. Such impacts on the Potaro river are threatening the pristine environment of the Kaieteur Falls, the only legally established protected area.
3. Land Degradation
Land degradation from mining operations takes several forms. Around the bauxite mines the waste dumps, residual lakes, and tailings dams have high levels of acidity. Acid leaches into ground and river waters, and prevents natural revegetation that would contain the dust. The bauxite tailings dam at LINMINE needs to be stabilised and revegetated to prevent this situation. In addition, during its operating life, the alumina refinery at LINMINE discharged approximately three million tonnes of red mud, the waste product from the pressurised vats that contains large quantities of caustic soda, into a tailings or settling pond next to the refinery. No information is available about leachate from the stored red mud, but fear that contamination has occurred is realistic.
4. Air quality
Quantities of particulate matter are released from bauxite calcining burners and drying processes via the stacks and, at Linden, is blown by prevailing winds directly over the resident population (about 50-70,000 people). In addition, the fuel used for the calcine burners at LINMINE has a high sulphur content resulting in the release of sulphur dioxide. The frequent incidence of lung diseases and asthma in Linden is assumed to be related to the emissions from the stacks.
The mined-out pits, excavated lakes and ponds, and silica sand dumps, have not been rehabilitated or revegetated at either LINMINE or BERMINE and these increase the ambient dust levels. Quantities of fugitive dust are also produced from transshipment of bauxite from the mine to the coast.
5. Health Issues
In addition to the health problems described above for the general population, "flour gold" mining poses very high potential health risks of mercury poisoning to miners, both from absorption through the skin and inhalation of the volatile fumes.
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Land issues do not exclusively affect agriculture, but their impact on this sector directly affects production levels.
About half of the available land for agricultural production is the property of the State. This land is leased to producers. Constraints in the surveying capacity of the Lands and Surveys Commission has led to considerable backlogs in the processing of lease applications. As a result, many leases granted are provisional or temporary. Insecurity of tenure may encourage producers to strive for short-term profit maximisation, which may intensify exploitation of the land beyond its carrying capacity. Furthermore, the current duration of leases is typically 25 years. This does not provide enough incentive for the leaseholder to make long term investments to sustain the productivity of the land. In addition, nontradeable leases of 25 years or less are not of sufficient length for leaseholders to access credit from commercial banks to make such investments. These problems have been addressed in the new agricultural land policy which will make leases longer in duration and freely transferable. See Chapter 29 of this Strategy.
The level of rents for State land remained static for many years despite strong inflation in the economy. Although Cabinet has taken the important step of adjusting rents to more closely reflect market values, it is apparent that land rents remain highly subsidised. Such distortions in the land market lead to the mis-allocation of resources and land may be left idle or utilised with minimal re-investment. The existing system of controls on private land rents also has encouraged leaving land idle, but this question too is addressed in Chapter 29.
The most serious environmental impact of agricultural activities is non-point pollution of land and water from runoff that contains sediment, fertilisers and pesticides. Although fertiliser use is lower than in other countries because of economic constraints, urea and phosphates lead to nutrient loading and lime is used to counteract acidity in the soils during sugar planting. Pesticide and herbicide use leads to dangerous chemical loading, particularly since local farmers are untrained in their use. With the introduction of a market economy, private sector chemical firms are providing extension services to farmers that include sales of pesticides and other agricultural inputs, which is likely to increase their use. Aerial spraying of pesticides in both sugar and rice fields is believed to have drifted to other areas of the coastal zone.
The only monitoring done in agriculture is through the MMA-ADA project, essentially a large river control project in the coastal zone, that has resulted in dramatically improved production levels for agriculture and rice, in particular. This project (which has IDB financing) is one of the few operations with an Environmental Monitoring and Control Unit. This unit has identified the major adverse impacts to be: the widespread growth of the water hyacinth, stimulated by increased nutrients, and the reduced flow of the Abary river, which clogs the drains and waterways and further slows water movement. The reduced river flow has resulted in siltation, particularly at the mouth of the river, where a large mudbank has formed that requires dredging. Other impacts have included eutrophication and loss of trees.
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Fishing activities are concentrated on the continental shelf and to a minimal level on the continental slope. There is little activity in the offshore area and the potential of the coastal and oceanic pelagics are not well known. Various estimates of the magnitude of the standing stock and potential yields from these resources have been attempted. Shrimp production has been declining at a significant rate since 1974 (Chapter 31). The decline followed a period in the in the 1960s and 1970s when the size of the shipping fleet in the Guiana Banks numbered more than 700 vessels and, in the view of most fishery scientists, represented excessive fishing effort. Reduced landings also followed the establishment of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by most countries. Data from the Department of Fisheries indicate that fewer than seventy (70) shrimp trawlers out of a fleet of approximately ninety (90) are currently fishing. Some trawlers have turned to a smaller species, the seabob, which is found further inshore, and now in turn, may be overexploited. Despite serious development efforts in the past, aquaculture is still in its infancy, although it has significant growth potential.
One of the most pressing issues in inland fisheries is the need to protect waterways and habitats from environmentally damaging practices associated with the expansion of mining and forestry operations. Pollution from mining activities and the use of chemicals and pesticides threaten these resources. Aerial spraying with pesticides in the coastal zone may have affected the hassarfish populations.
The Government is currently reviewing a Fisheries Management Plan that provides for management of the fisheries over ten years and has established new fisheries policies in Chapter 31 of this Strategy. Fisheries legislation that dates from 1957 will be updated.
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Ecotourism has been defined as tourism which maximises the benefits and minimises the costs (environmental, social, economic and cultural) to the destination country and to specific areas within that country. Although our natural resources compare favourably with those of competing destinations and its rock engravings and paintings from the pre-Columbian era enhance the natural assets, the ecotourism potential is still untapped. The private sector has to date provided some accommodation services, but the physical infrastructure required to transport tourists is quite limited. Plans for sharing the benefits of ecotourism with Amerindian populations have not yet been developed.
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Nowhere is the deterioration of the infrastructure for managing sewage and solid waste more evident than in Georgetown. Furthermore, runoff from agricultural activities discharges sediment and inputs, such as fertilisers and pesticides, into rivers and coastal waters, and is presumed to enter the defective water supply systems during flooding. Industrial activities in the coastal zone discharge untreated wastewater into water courses. There is no monitoring of these impacts but the incidence of health problems suggests that improper management of wastes poses serious environmental and public health problems nationwide. Addressing these problems will be one of the main responsibilities of the new EPA.
1. Liquid Waste
Proper disposal of sewage is the primary liquid waste management issue. Georgetown is the only city served by a communal sewerage system. The main sewerage system, built between 1924 and 1929, services around 648 hectares in central Georgetown, containing approximately one-third of the city's population (about 80,000 people). The old gravity-piped sewerage system discharges to 24 pumping stations around the city. Power outages, aging pumps and solid waste dumping interfere with continuous flow through the system, which discharges an estimated 3.9 million gallons of untreated sewage per day through an outfall into the mouth of the Demerara River. The University of Guyana and the Tucville area outside Georgetown also have sewer systems, but neither has an operating treatment plant at this time. The remaining population of greater Georgetown and the other major communities are served by septic tanks and pit latrines, which overflow from time to time to ditches and storm channels, causing foul odours, unsightly conditions and severe endemic mosquito problems. More serious is the potential for contaminated surface water from storm channels to enter drinking water mains at times of low or negative pressure and during flood conditions.
In rural areas, septic tanks and pit latrines are commonly used for sewage disposal. Septic tanks employ a filter box for dispersing tank effluent into the soil to a depth that depends on the level of the water table. Pit latrines, if properly covered and maintained, can provide adequate sewage disposal for rural areas without a pipe-borne water supply.
2. Solid Waste
Solid waste disposal practices have not kept pace with the demands posed by increases in population and waste generation. Municipal solid waste management in Georgetown, more than elsewhere, suffers from years of under-funding. According to recent data, Georgetown generates approximately 50 tons of solid waste per day. Recently the city has had to use contractor vehicles for waste collection because of a lack of city garbage trucks. The contractor often interrupts the waste collection services because its fees are not paid for lack of funds. A common practice throughout the city is the dumping of waste in nearby public areas and vacant lots rather than at official dump sites. The resulting waste pollution and open decomposition, and also drain clogging, is a common sight in all city districts.
Georgetown has an old waste incinerator, used principally for disposal of hospital wastes, which is currently operating at only 10 percent of capacity. Because of its location in the city and the costs of rehabilitation, it may be necessary to abandon the incinerator and simply use the site as a transfer station. Otherwise, most of the city's solid waste is disposed in temporary, poorly designed landfills sited at various locations around the city. These makeshift urban landfills are shallow excavated trenches, backfilled with solid waste, and covered with soil by earthmoving equipment. Their current operation cause foul odours and problems of wind-blown waste. There are no controls on the waste that is dumped in the landfill and leachate from the landfill is believed to be entering the high water table underlying the city.
In the communities of Linden and New Amsterdam, municipal waste disposal is handled by open dumping and burning. No facility design or operating procedures are followed for these sites. Both air and ground-water pollution are cause for concern. However, no monitoring is currently done.
3. Agricultural Wastes
Animal wastes from pigs, cattle, and poultry are good for soil conditioning if properly managed. Nevertheless, they may cause pollution problems if runoff is allowed to enter streams and rivers, or to percolate into groundwater, as happens in the coastal zone. As livestock farms continue to develop, proper measures should be encouraged for the lagooning of animal waste, the use of solids to condition soils and of properly treated effluent to irrigate fields.
4. Industrial and Other Wastes
Very little is known about industrial waste management. Currently no reliable data are available on the quantity, characteristics, and management practices for industrial liquid and solid wastes. Industrial solid wastes, which may include hazardous waste constituents, are generally trucked to the land disposal site in Georgetown. There is currently little monitoring or control over industrial waste disposal. GAHEF has recently begun to characterise industrial pollution on the assumption that disposal practices for industrial effluents pose environmental hazards and that proper management systems for these wastes must be introduced. GAHEF has recently assembled some information on industrial waste generated and the pollutants of potential concern. Table 18-1 shows this information.
Sources of Industrial Waste in Guyana
|Food processing||47||BOD, phosphates, solids, dust, pathogens|
|Detergents/soaps||9||BOD, phosphates, caustics|
|Metalworking/foundry||8||Heavy metals, solids|
|Sugar refinery||7||BOD, solids, caustics, phosphates|
|Chemical/pharmaceutical||6||Acids, alkalies, phosphates, solids|
|Distilleries/breweries||5||BOD, phosphates, thermal|
Ship-generated wastes, which can be considerable in CARICOM islands with a strong tourism industry and regular visits from cruise lines, contribute minimally to waste in Guyana. The port in Georgetown handles mostly cargo boats and the solid waste is removed in bags and trucked to the Georgetown land disposal site. More of a concern is hospital waste (pathological, chemical, infectious, and pharmaceutical waste), which is currently bagged in plastic after separation and is collected and trucked to the Georgetown incinerator.
5. Environmental and Public Health Impacts from Improper Waste Management
An assessment of the impacts of improper environmental and natural resource management practices reveals many areas that have potentially high negative impacts on human health and the environment. Current sewage disposal practices appear to cause faecal contamination of drinking water sources. Pollution of surface and ground water also has serious impacts on fisheries resources in coastal and marine waters, which then enters the food chain for the human population. In addition, the agricultural runoff which ultimately enters the coastal zone may contribute potentially significant pollutants in the form of increased biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and nutrient enrichment. Such pollution may have serious impacts on aquatic and marine life and any contamination of drinking water from this runoff would impact human health. Untreated industrial effluents discharged into nearby canals and rivers will affect the quality of drinking water if not rapidly dissolved.
Lack of management of solid waste poses serious health threats. One primary concern is the increase in diseases carried by rats and vermin from solid waste dumps. Contamination of ground and surface water by leachate from solid waste dumps is likely. Where solid waste is burned as part of the disposal process, air pollution may pose a threat to the surrounding area.
Only limited water quality monitoring is done for drinking water sources (i.e., surface and ground waters) and no testing is done of rivers and coastal waters. Nevertheless, as noted, one significant indicator of the environmental health problem is the increase in the incidence of environmental diseases. Health data show that the population suffers from environment-related diseases, identified in Table 18-2, that are transmitted to humans from contaminated water, food, or soil.
|Water-borne||Cholera, dysentery, gastroenteritis, and typhoid|
|Food-borne||Dysentery, gastroenteritis, and infectious hepatitis|
Other diseases that afflict the population are transmitted by common vectors that are directly influenced by environmental conditions. These are shown in the following table.
Vector Transmitted Diseases
|Mosquito||Dengue, filariasis, malaria, and yellow fever|
Recent health statistics show increases in the number of reported cases of malaria and a high mortality rate, especially in the interior. The increases in cases of gastroenteritis reflect poor conditions in water supply and sanitation, as does the outbreak of cholera along the border with Venezuela. In total, water-borne diseases are estimated to have risen more than fourfold over the last decade. In addition, the infant mortality rate is the highest in CARICOM.
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Because of both the increased public scrutiny of private sector developers and the environmental requirements of the international lending institutions, corporations that have obtained large forestry and mining concessions are increasingly required to introduce environmental protection standards in their operations. Currently, though, the capacity to monitor their compliance with these standards does not exist. Small scale private sector investors engage in gold mining but also in logging and sawmilling activities, as well as in agriculture and fishing, and there are few controls on their activities.
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The National Trust Act of 1972 legislates the preservation of historical and cultural areas. A National Trust Committee (NTC) has functioned sporadically since 1972. The NTC receives no funds from the Government and has no funds of its own. The NTC is assisted, though, by the Guyana Heritage Society (GHS) that has just completed a list of the material and immaterial heritage, some of which is in the putative national parks. The unprioritised list comprises buildings in the city of Georgetown, items of archeological and zoological interest in the Rupununi, places of beauty, nesting places of birds, burial mounds, graves and domains of pioneers, churches and missions, and Amerindian burial urns. The fiscal crisis has prevented architectural conservation measures being enforced in Georgetown, which, if done, could enhance the city's value as a cultural asset and a tourist attraction.
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The level of public awareness about environmental issues has risen significantly in the wake of incidents such as the Omai cyanide spill. Sources for increasing public environmental awareness, i.e., public education and community outreach efforts by both Government and NGOs, have recently begun to be put in place.
The Environment Unit has a limited but active environmental education programme that functions under the supervision of a trained Environmental Officer, and it will be strengthened under the new Environmental Protection Agency. The programme has included a 20-minute television show, daily radio broadcasts on environmental issues, and two-day seminars on environmental awareness for primary and secondary school teachers. The Environment Unit has drawn up a five-year, multifaceted environmental education programme, including school curriculum changes, public outreach campaigns, etc., but it has not begun implementation for lack of financial resources. The Health Education Unit of the Georgetown City Council, helped by the Environment Unit, is also very active in this field, arranging lectures and competitions between schools, etc. The personnel working in this area is knowledgeable and doing the best it can with limited resources.
The University of Guyana (UG) provides several environment-related courses within some of its programmes in the Physical Sciences. UG offers an Environmental Health Officers Diploma, a three-year programme that includes courses in environmental studies, epidemiology, public health, water, sewerage, and solid waste management. With support from the European Community, UG has recently established an Environmental Studies Unit, which offers a four-year undergraduate programme in environmental studies. Carried out jointly with the University of Utrecht in Holland and funded by the EEC, the new programme will establish physical facilities and provide a core of trained staff for UG to undertake teaching, environmental research, and consultancies.
Our environmental NGO movement is still in an embryonic stage and is only beginning to play a role in public education and advocacy on environmental issues. There are currently fewer than ten NGOs with an interest in environmental matters. Though limited in number, these NGOs have been involved mainly in the monitoring of the actions of companies in the areas of forestry and mining. The most common contribution of all the NGOs is in the area of public awareness and environmental education. Again, the Omai spill inadvertently gave these efforts a considerable boost.
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Guyana is still well endowed with natural resources. Maintenance of the resource base has been less a result of planning and direct action, than of low use because of the relatively small population and the size of the country. The pervasive fiscal crisis that led to the deterioration of the social and economic infrastructure and that undermined public sector institutions, constrained Government's ability to manage natural resources and the environment. There has not been any legislation specifically designed to address natural resource management issues comprehensively. Responsibility for environmental matters has been divided among a number of line ministries and special Government agencies and between the national and local levels of government.
In 1989 international assistance was received for the preparation of the National Forestry Action Plan and in 1992 with the preparation of a first "Environmental Profile" for the UNCED Conference. The first comprehensive policy statement about environmental issues evolved as recently as 1994, through the preparation and Parliamentary approval of the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP).
The principles contained in the NEAP were based on Guyana's experience internationally and as a CARICOM member. This national policy was guided by the United Nations Environment Programme, which represents the multilateral framework within which international environmental issues are pursued at the global level, in keeping with the "Environmental Perspective to the Year 2000 and Beyond," as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1987. Additionally, it took into consideration several regional declarations on sound environmental management and sustainable development. These include the Caribbean Environmental Health Strategy (1978), the Action Plan for the Caribbean Environment Programme (1981), the Declaration of Brasilia (1989), the Amazon Declaration (1989), and the Port-of-Spain Accord on the Management and Conservation of the Caribbean Environment (1989).
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This section describes the present status of policies, legislation and institutions relating to the management of natural resources.
1. Environmental Policies
The NEAP states that "in order to conserve and improve the environment, the Government of Guyana will endeavor to:
Assure all people living in the country the fundamental right to an environment adequate for their health and well-being.
Achieve a balance between the use and conservation of the nation's resources to meet the needs of economic development and improved standards of living.
Conserve and use the environment and natural resources of Guyana for the benefit of both present and future generations, based on the principle of the exercise of sovereignty.
Maintain ecosystems and ecological processes essential for the functioning of the biosphere to preserve biological diversity and to observe the principle of optimum sustainable yield in the use of renewable natural resources and ecosystems, both on land and the sea."
In order to fulfill these objectives, the same document also states that the Government will:
Institute punitive measures to deter possible violations of environmental norms.
Ensure that, where environmental damage occurs, remedial action will be taken with the cost being covered by those responsible for causing the damage.
Rehabilitate damaged ecosystems where possible and reverse any degradation of the environment.
Ensure prior environmental assessments of proposed activities that may significantly affect the environment.
Ensure that conservation is treated as an integral part of the planning and implementation of development activities.
Promote the pursuance of international cooperation on environmental issues.
Raise the consciousness of the population on the environmental implications of economic and social activities through comprehensive education and public awareness programs.
Involve the population, including indigenous peoples, women and youth, in the management of the environment and natural resources.
To date, there is no legislation designed for natural resource management and environmental protection. Nevertheless, a number of existing laws address specific aspects of environmental management, as discussed below.
a. Natural Resources
The basic Forests Act is 40 years old and many of its provisions, including penalties, are outdated. The wildlife legislation needs modernising. The only law governing the terrestrial wildlife is the Wild Birds Protection Act. There is no specific legislation for establishing national parks and protected areas or that is directed to shorezone management. However, various measures exist which relate to the management of coastal and marine resources, particularly fisheries (the Fisheries Act), aquatic life (the Aquatic Wildlife Control Regulations), and the shoreline (the Sea Defences Act).
b. Environmental Protection
Recent laws governing exploitation of non-renewable natural resources contain general authority for environmental protection. For example, under the Mining Act, the Guyana Natural Resources Agency is developing "environmental management agreements" for mining licensees. Also, the Petroleum Act imposes waste management and clean up requirements on polluters. There is no legislation governing pollution control, regulation of pesticides and toxic chemicals, or waste management. The main measures dealing with air and water pollution and solid waste control are the antiquated water supply, drainage, sanitary and nuisance provisions of the Public Health Ordinance. The Georgetown Sewerage and Water Commissioners Act provides for the disposal of sewage and prohibits the disposal of anything other than sewage and paper into the city's sewers. However, the Act does not define the term "sewage" so at present it is unclear whether industrial wastewater may be disposed of in the sewers.
c. Land Use Planning
The Town and Country Planning Act provides machinery for physical development planning and land use control. Under the Act, development schemes may be prepared for cities, towns, and other areas. Such schemes may provide for preservation of areas of natural beauty, forest, trees and plants, and for regulation of waste disposal. The Act provides for public participation in the planning process before any scheme is approved. However, Georgetown is the only area with an approved scheme. The Act also provides for the interim control of development in declared planning areas, and, to date, seven areas have been declared. However, at present there is no requirement that EIAs be carried out for proposed developments.
(i) National Institutions
At the national level, the Ministries of Health and Agriculture share environmental responsibilities. The Ministry of Health has authority over environmental health and pollution control, which it exercises through the Environmental Health Unit and the Regional Environmental Health Services. It also has jurisdiction over the National Parks Commission (NPC). The Ministry of Agriculture exercises management responsibility over much of the natural resource base through the Land and Surveys Commission that administers State lands; the Crops and Livestock Department, that is responsible for wildlife protection; the Fisheries Department, which oversees fisheries and aquatic wildlife; the Hydraulics Division, which is in charge of sea defences, drainage and irrigation works; the Hydrometeorology Division, which monitors surface and ground water resources; and the MMA-Agricultural Development Authority, which manages and monitors the agricultural development of West Coast Berbice.
The following special agencies were created to deal with specific environment matters:
The Guyana Natural Resources Agency (GNRA), which is charged with developing natural resources and has supervisory jurisdiction over the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Petroleum Unit, the Guyana Gold Board (GGB), the Guyana National Energy Authority (GNEA).
The Guyana Agency for Health Sciences Education, Environment and Food Policy (GAHEF), whose Environment Division is charged with environmental monitoring and education, reviews of EIAs, and coordination of the Environmental Management Committee for the Coastal Zone. The role of this agency in environmental management is now uncertain, since some of its functions have been transferred to the Environment Unit attached to the Office of the President.
The Guyana Water Authority (GUYWA), which works with regional councils and municipal authorities to provide water supply and sewerage services in Guyana; and
The Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA), which exercises development, planning, and control authority.
(ii) Regional and Local Institutions and Corporations
At the regional and local levels, many counterpart institutions perform environmental management functions. For example, the ten Regional Environmental Health Services and local health authorities have been delegated authority for implementation and enforcement of Public Health Ordinance provisions, and the Regional Democratic Councils and Local Government authorities carry out the water supply and sewerage responsibilities of GUYWA. In the capital, the Georgetown Water and Sewerage Commissioners are responsible for the water supply and sewage disposal systems of the city.
Public corporations have traditionally been involved in environmental management. In the agricultural sector GUYSUCO has long been responsible for management of the East Demerara water conservancy, which provides water both for local drinking water supplies and for irrigation of the cane fields. In the mining sector, LINMINE operates the water supply system for the city of Linden, as well as for its bauxite mining operations.
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The challenge facing the country today is to raise income levels and generate employment as rapidly as possible, while at the same time protecting its natural resource base and improving the quality of life for its citizenry through improving public health and the general living environment. The 1994 National Environmental Action Plan identified the key environmental and natural resource management issues, and they also are described in the preceding section of this Chapter. In summary, the issues may be grouped into those which relate to the coast, urban areas and the interior.
The Coast. The coastal plain lies below sea level and has a high population density, with agricultural activity concentrated along this coast. The frequent flooding of the coastal plain has occurred mainly because of lack of maintenance of the sea defences and of deterioration of water supply, waste management and drainage and irrigation infrastructure, compounded by natural and man-induced coastal erosion. The ensuing serious pollution and public health consequences, have also had significant economic consequences (World Bank Staff Appraisal Report, Guyana Environmental Management Programme, 1995). Sustainable management of mangroves and inshore fisheries resources also is a major environmental issue in coastal areas.
Urban. Because of the low level of public services and the lack of policies and incentives for private sector provision of clean water and safe waste disposal systems, such services are practically nonexistent, even for those living in the urban areas. With evidence of ground and surface water contamination and marked increases in water borne diseases, severe problems of environmental health have arisen.
The Interior. In the interior, inhabited primarily by several Amerindian communities, the principal economic activities are forestry, mining of gold, bauxite and diamonds. Significant contribution to revenues is derived from the wildlife trade. All these activities have considerable impacts on natural resources and the environment. The potential for environmental damage has intensified with the granting of large long-term mining and logging concessions, mainly to foreign companies, combined with the lack of strategic sectoral planning and grossly inadequate capacity to maintain and regulate activities within the extractive, industrial and agricultural sectors.
A key issue in the interior is the extent to which non-timber concessions can be created in the forests, concessions that would generate royalties and some sources of income and employment for local population.
Much of the deteriorated environmental situation is directly related to the decline in economic growth during the past two decades. The most significant pollution problems facing the Guyanese population today stem from the lack of maintenance of most environmental services in the past. This problem, in turn, is rooted in the weakened overall fiscal situation and inadequate cost recovery from the users of public services. User charges will need to be set to permit adequate management of solid and liquid wastes, ensure the quality of potable water, and to maintain the drainage and irrigations works and sea defenses, but the ability of the population to pay such charges depends on the creation of a climate that fosters economic growth. While cost recovery is important for maintaining an environmental infrastructure adequately, major capital investments are currently required to rehabilitate these facilities and services.
Furthermore, environmental management as it relates to development thrusts often entails cross-sectoral issues, while current institutions and legislation are designed only at the sector level. The environmental objectives presented later in this Chapter are developed out of a careful analysis of sectoral and cross-sectoral issues, including questions of public health and education, sustainable management of fisheries and forest resources, and management practices for agrochemicals.
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Our country has extensive natural resources in its forests, waterways, coastal zone and sub-soil region, but, as described above, it does not yet have the policies, institutions nor legislation adequate to manage these resources. Investments in timber and mining exploitation are bulky and complex and, generally, distant from population centers. We do not have the strong tradition of NGO involvement and community participation in management of natural resources and monitoring that characterises Belize, for example, another CARICOM member.
Institutional weaknesses in and across sectors contribute to difficulties in managing natural resources effectively. The lack of security of land tenure and a strategic planning capability for sectoral development are also major constraints.
The main continuing constraints to improvements in environmental management are:
Absence of clear policies and guidelines for environmental management of natural resources and for integrated management of the coastal zone. This Strategy represents a major step forward in that regard.
Limited capacity of the present environmental agency, in terms of financial, personnel and material resources, for environmental management and supervision and monitoring of development activities for environmental impacts.
Lack of clear regulations and legislation and of monitoring and enforcement capabilities for effective environmental management.
The deteriorated state of infrastructure and lack of sufficient funding for social infrastructural maintenance, although substantial improvements are expected in this area over the next few years.
The absence of a general Land Use Plan, which creates user conflicts that very often have serious implications for sustainable utilisation of environmental resources.
Lack of an adequate information base that would permit formulation, implementation and monitoring of effective environmental management plans.
Lack of appropriate mechanisms to encourage and sustain community participation in environmental and resource management.
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Sustainable development means the rational use of natural resources in a way that improves the quality of life for present and future generations, especially the vulnerable groups. Meaningful and sustainable development cannot be achieved without the integration of sound environmental management into the socioeconomic development process. This policy acknowledges that, as expressed in the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: "Sustainable Development is not a fixed state of harmony but rather a continuous process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional modifications are made consistent with future and present needs. The process needs to be participatory and environmental benefits will imply some costs."
The benefits associated with environmental policies will be quite tangible in many instances, and they will be reaped within a fairly short time horizon. Major examples include improved public health and increased levels of fish catch for artisanal fishermen.
In the final analysis, sustainable development must rest on Government leadership and the support and active participation of local and private sector associations and councils. This National Strategy provides the first attempt at an integrated approach to economic development and management of natural resources. As outlined in the National Development Objectives (see Chapter 2), the basic conditions for the development process are that it be:
Fiscally sustainable; and
The Government is currently focussing on rebuilding and diversifying the economy on the basis of rational utilisation of the country's natural and human resources. Two important and immediate objectives are to generate the revenues required to improve the physical and social infrastructure, and to raise living standards by promoting economic growth for generating income and employment. As stated in Chapter 2, poverty alleviation will be emphasised in the course of pursuing these objectives.
In the overall context, Guyana's principal environmental policy objectives are:
to contribute to this process of improving living standards, through the environmental health dimension;
to ensure that the natural resource base for economic growth continues to be available in the future;
to widen the dimensions of our living standards through the conservation of unique habitats, natural treasures, biodiversity and our cultural heritage.
To that end and as a first statement of priorities, the Government will:
In the area of resource contamination, give priority to reducing the incidence of those problems that affect public health.
In the area of resource degradation, give priority to sustainable management of those renewable resources that provide the critical foundation for our current and long-term economic development, in particular, fisheries, forests, soils and water supplies.
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The public sector in many countries has, until relatively recently, either not addressed the issues of resource degradation and contamination or has confined its actions to designing legislation to regulate the most obvious impacts of economic and human activities and to creating institutions to implement these regulations. Only recently, have Governments begun to develop policies that address degradation and contamination in a holistic manner and that include policies for prevention and mitigation of impacts. Gradually command and control measures are being combined with incentives to induce more benign environmental behaviour. Governments are increasingly establishing agencies that take a multi-sectoral approach to environmental management and, simultaneously, are strengthening the capacity of sectoral agencies to manage natural resources and control pollution within their sphere of responsibility. In many countries NGOs play active roles in monitoring and implementation and local communities become the guardians of assets from which they earn income and employment.
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A combination of regulatory and economic policies will be required to address the problems of environmental health and promote environmentally sound economic development based on Guyana's vast natural resources. Incentives and market mechanisms will be used wherever they are appropriate for dealing with environmental problems. One example, cited below, is to promote the establishment of regional gold processing mills and use the additional economic margin that arises from the much greater processing efficiency of those mills, vis-a-vis traditional artisanal methods, to provide incentives for individual miners to participate in the scheme. A second example is the use of tradeable pollution rights in cases of multiple polluters affecting a single environmental sink, such as the groundwater resources underlying Georgetown.
Community participation will be vital to efforts such as sustainable management of mangroves and protection of resources within protected areas. The concerned local communities need to be involved at the design stage as well as at the implementation stage, in order for the policies and programmes to be successful. The Environmental Protection Agency will take the lead in organising and informing community members about these undertakings, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Works, Communications and Regional Development, but in the end considerable responsibility for managing the programmes at the local level will be devolved to the communities.
Rural communities that participate in the management and protection of biosphere reserves, will need to be compensated, perhaps through a foundation that will reward their effective participation by means of local infrastructure projects agreed upon by the communities. The experience of many countries has shown that the policing approach alone is not adequate for the protection of natural reserves, and that local rural communities must become involved if the effort is to be successful. Yet another approach is to extend substantially the length of forestry concessions, so that the concessionaires will have incentives to manage their own areas of forest sustainably.
A new direction has been taken to recover costs of public services and promote efficient use of natural resources. These strategies are, however, only at their initial stage and their full application will take time to be effective. New policies for cost recovery are laid out in this Strategy and in the relevant sectoral strategies. In addition to raising revenues, cost recovery will encourage conservation and environmental protection.
It will take time to develop the most appropriate ways to implement these principles for different classes of problems, but they are powerful principles and they are fundamental to the way in which environmental problems will be managed.
The following sections outline the recommendations for addressing environmental issues identified in the various sectors. These sections also summarise the findings of individual Chapters in the National Strategy that are focussed on each of the sectors and cross-sectoral issues discussed below.
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One of the first and most basic steps the Government will take in the area of environmental policy is the creation of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its full functioning will entail the following steps:
Create an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Through the mechanism of environmental coordination units, several governmental agencies will collaborate with the EPA in analysing issues, formulating solutions, implementing those solutions, and monitoring the results.
Ensure that development of solutions for contamination problems will be preceded in each case by a detailed assessment of the problem and its origins, with quantification of the extent of the contamination to provide a baseline for measuring improvements.
The EPA will be empowered to review plans and programs and formulate recommendations for the Cabinet about the management of renewable natural resources with the objective of avoiding further resource degradation. Such plans and programs include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Forestry policies for sustainable harvesting of timber.
- Fisheries management programs.
- Programs for designating and managing protected areas and habitats.
- Programs and regulations governing the wildlife trade.
- Policies and programs for integrated coastal zone management.
The EPA will also develop environmental education and awareness policies and programs for the general public that focus on specific environmental issues and their solutions, in recognition of the fundamental fact that the public must be a partner in seeking and promoting effective solutions to environmental concerns.
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) will be required for any project or activity, in both the private and public sector, that significantly affects the environment.
The EPA will maintain a staff of scientific experts who will carry out technical assessments of environmental problems and, when necessary, will testify on scientific issues before the courts. Legislation will be developed that recognises the role of scientific testimony in the court system; judges will apply specified criteria in the certification of experts who may make such testimony, whether they are from the EPA or elsewhere.
Prior to the application of sanctions for industrial and agricultural pollution, remedial plans will be drawn up by the EPA and polluters and the interested public will be given opportunities to file formal comments on them in draft. Once the plans are approved, they will have the force of regulations and sanctions will be applied for failure to comply with them.
By establishing the EPA and strengthening the environmental management capacity of selected sectoral agencies, ministries and local governments with significant environmental management responsibilities, it is expected that overall improvement in environmental management systems and capacity will be achieved. This will only be possible by:
- developing the human resource capacity to implement and monitor environmental management measures;
- creating and strengthening the environmental management infrastructure;
- streamlining and improving the legal and regulatory framework for environmental management; and
- supporting national environmental education and public awareness programmes.
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Successful identification, evaluation and mitigation and management of the causes and impacts of coastal zone degradation, depend on availability of baseline data, adequate monitoring and regulation by appropriate institutions designed for integrated, cross-sectoral management, complemented by appropriate and effective legislation, public awareness and participation by local communities in decision making and implementation. Many of the issues relating to coastal erosion and land degradation in the coastal zone are complex, e.g., repair of the sea defences and of primary drainage and irrigation infrastructure, increasing the recharge of coastal aquifers, understanding the impacts and attempting to control the actions of the mud shoals, and monitoring sea level rise. Several of these and some less intractable issues are discussed below.
1. Institutional and Participatory Issues
The dispersion of responsibilities among the many institutions with responsibilities in the coastal zone makes integrated management difficult to implement, although such integration is essential for the effective management of such a complex area that is also so critical for economic development. Previous attempts to coordinate the activities of several agencies, through the Inter-Agency Committee on Environment and Development and the Advisory Environmental Council, were not successful. The Government is considering establishing a lead environmental agency with authority to coordinate agency activities and review private sector actions in the coastal zone. Involvement of coastal communities in developing and implementing solutions that will affect their well-being and that require their cooperation to be effective is of vital importance.
2. Infrastructure Maintenance
a. Sea Defences
Sea defences are a fundamental element in the protection of the environment, protecting the coastal lands from flooding. The maintenance of sea defences remains a critical issue for the development of the agricultural sector, and indeed for the development of Guyana. External financing agencies are supplying considerable funds for the rehabilitation of sea defences, and successful maintenance of the defences will depend critically on implementing the special cost-recovery measures outlined in Chapter 40. Furthermore, the system of sea defence management should be able to react quickly to control breaches and floods in case of emergencies.
b. Primary D&I infrastructure
The recently reconstituted national Drainage and Irrigation Board will take the responsibility for the maintenance of primary drainage and irrigation (D&I) works. As with sea defences, significant funds have been committed to the rehabilitation of the D&I system and maintenance of the system will be placed increasingly in the hands of users' associations (Chapter 40).
3. Mangrove Management
Local control may be highly beneficial for mangrove management. Solutions for managing mangrove resources in a sustainable way will be developed and implemented with the participation of the local communities who exploit the mangroves for fuelwood. Alternative sources of firewood and a programme to replant mangroves need to be initiated in order to protect the mangroves, which are an important breeding ground for marine species that are caught by artisanal fishermen.
4. Other Priorities
Government established a prioritised list of actions, in the NEAP, for activities for which it requires donor assistance. Excluding the activities discussed above, they are:
initiating a study of the movement of the mud shoals;
initiating a study of the groundwater resources of coastal aquifers.
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To consolidate earlier initiatives, a Draft National Forestry Code of Practice has been formulated. This seeks to address many of the known issues and set out guidelines for sustainable and environmentally acceptable forestry practices. To prevent loss of top soil and consequent fragmentation of forests, the specifications of individual FMPs, particularly as they relate to buffers, road plans, logging practices, etc., must be strictly adhered to in future. Measures must be taken immediately to protect waterways and terrestrial areas from improper disposal of waste from logging camps and sawmills, by:
encouraging the use of sawmill waste for energy, by implementing NFAP project # 34 as a pilot project and sharing the results with the private sector;
designating approved sites for waste disposal at camp sites;
prohibiting the dumping of camp waste in waterways.
Once the criteria and procedures for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are in place, all forestry operations must be subjected to EIAs before and during the logging operation, under guidelines set and approved by the EPA.
Currently, an area of 3.6 million hectares of forested land is accessible for exploitation and approximately 2.4 million hectares have been allocated for harvesting. The sector, however, is poised for an expansion of production. The potentially exploitable forests, for which access has to be constructed, extend over 10.4 million acres in the rain forest and in seasonal and in dry evergreen forests. Some 6.4 million acres, about 65 percent of this total area, are currently leased for exploitation.
The Government is aware that the scale of the forestry exploitation that is currently envisaged will need to be carefully designed, regulated and monitored if Guyana is to avoid the plight of so many countries where the rainforest has been degraded and even destroyed for questionable short-term benefits. Furthermore, the emerging demand for "green seal" timber, i.e., wood and wood products that are certifiably produced in sustainable ways, is beginning to influence demand in international markets for forestry products(1). In Guyana, to date there has been very little capture of the economic benefits from non-timber products and services that traditionally include medicinal products, fibres and fruits and ecotourism. More recently, developed countries, through the GEF(2) and the "Joint Implementation" provision of the Climate Convention, have made transfers to developing countries to conserve forest cover, particularly to maintain stored carbon in biomass to prevent it escaping into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases. Other possible funding sources for forest conservation are debt-for-development programmes, green venture capital, green investment funds and, perhaps most significantly, a special foundation that would mobilise donations from abroad to pay for non-timber concessions (see below).
Given these considerations, Government decided in May 1995 that no new logging concessions would be issued for a minimum of three years, or until the GFC is able to regulate forestry operations. Strengthening of the technical and monitoring capacity of the GFC is being carried out with assistance from ODA. Forestry regulations and the level of royalties are also being revised, in order to ensure that Guyana begins to be adequately compensated for the logging concessions it issues. On average, royalties and acreage fees have fallen by about 80 percent in real terms since 1979 and require a five-fold increase to bring them back to those levels. Forest fees paid by loggers in Guyana are currently among the lowest internationally, even after allowance for the relatively lower quality and productivity in commercial timber species.
Conservation of the forest benefits the world at large, since, as stated earlier, Guyana is only one of thirteen countries with extensive rainforest left. Moreover, "the Guyana Shield", of which Guyana's forests are a part, is a unique and endangered region that stretches from Amapa in North-East Brazil, through French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana, Venezuela and Colombia until it reaches the Andes. The region is known to contain tremendous and largely endemic biological diversity. Although there is no comprehensive listing of medicinal plant species, Amerindian customs and practices indicate that as much as 10 percent of the plant species may have medicinal properties. The forest also provides a habitat for wildlife and is of international significance for scientific and tropical forestry research. Furthermore, Guyana's forests make an essential contribution to the hydrological balance and climatic stability of the immediate region and the rest of the world.
Given the fiscal constraints the country faces in its quest for economic improvement, and the fact that conservation efforts bring benefits not only to Guyana but also to the world at large, mechanisms are required that will finance non-timber uses of the forests. Government will encourage efforts to establish a special foundation, which may be known tentatively as the Guyana Rainforest Foundation, that will mobilise funding from international NGOs, corporations, and bilateral governmental donors.
This foundation would set up an endowment fund to receive the donations and then apply the earnings from the endowment to the payment of royalties for non-timber concessions, to the management of those concessions including the training and hiring of Amerindians and other local personnel as field staff and, if desired, to collaborate in the efforts to upgrade GFC's capacity to monitor timber concessions.
Royalties paid to the Government for non-timber concessions would be set at levels per acre that are comparable to timber royalties, thus compensating Guyana for the decision to forego the exploitation of some of its resources. The Government would expect this kind of initiative to be accompanied by increased lending from multilateral institutions, to generate additional income and employment in other sectors as offsets to the possible reductions of potential income and employment in forestry.
The proposed Guyana Rainforest Foundation also would seek to promote ecotourism, medicinal uses of the forest, and other income-generating approaches. It would also promote international agreements on carbon offset (for industrial pollution in developed countries), as another source of compensation to Guyana for setting aside part of its natural resource base.
There have been similar though not identical efforts of this nature in several countries in the Hemisphere, of which the most successful example is Panama's Fundacion Natura, which has an endowment of US$25 million.
If the international response is appropriate and Guyana can launch this initiative, it would become a model for many tropical countries. Government will do all in its power to make the foundation a success if a response is forthcoming from the international community.
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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) developed a proposal in 1991 for expansion and management of the Kaieteur National Park. At its current size of 45 square miles, Kaieteur is much too small for the sustainable management of its biological diversity and high endemism. However, the greatest threat to Kaieteur is caused by miners who operate dredges in the Potaro river upstream from the falls and who live in a settlement above the falls. These mining operations and their settlement will have to be terminated and the recurrence of similar activities prevented. If they have a legal basis for their presence there, mechanisms will be found to compensate them for leaving.
The WWF proposed that Kaieteur National Park should include the entire upper watershed of the Potaro river with all its tributaries, and all forest lands bordering the savannahs to the southwest, the Kurungiku mountains to the southeast, Ebini mountain to the east, the Ayanganna mountain to the northwest and the upper watersheds of the Kuribrong and Amaila rivers. The inclusion of all the upper watersheds will ensure good water supply for Amerindian and other communities in the generally degraded savanna area to the west of the Ayanganna and Wokomung mountains. The proposed area covers an estimated 400,000 to 450,000 hectares of some of Guyana's most diversified life zones, with one of the highest levels of endemic species found anywhere in South America. This area is relatively inaccessible because of the mountainous terrain. Two Amerindian villages fall within the proposed expanded area. The proposed boundaries would maintain the major ecosystem in the greatly enlarged area.
The Government has decided to embark on the expansion of the Kaieteur National Park from its present size of 45 square miles to 222 square miles, which would incorporate the watershed leading into the falls. Government is currently reviewing the preliminary and coincident conclusions of studies recommending that the Kanuku mountains should be developed as a second National Park.
In 1994, the Government requested Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding for a project to develop a system of protected areas. According to the draft "Project Information Document" (PID) prepared by the Guyana Natural Resources Agency (GNRA) in August 1994, the principal objective of this project is to establish, according to internationally agreed criteria, a national system of protected areas that is fully representative of the country's varied and important biological diversity. This will entail undertaking thorough resource inventories and mapping to identify appropriate areas for designation; passing legislation to designate parks and reserves and to establish a Parks Management Agency, with authority for parks planning and management; beginning implementation of management plans in high-priority areas; and creating a park management training and environmental education programme. A project design workshop was held in November 1994, at which Government representatives, university staff, NGOs, and representatives of the GEF and other donors, agreed on the broad outline for the project.
Biodiversity is recognised to be an environmental asset and programmes will be designed for its protection and management, including but not limited to the above-mentioned protected areas schemes. The establishment of a system of protected areas is an essential step towards the sustainable management of Guyana's natural resources and the potential exploitation of its biodiversity resources. In addition, it an important step in attracting external funding for preservation of forested areas through the Joint Implementation provisions of the Climate Convention and directly from private sector energy corporations requiring carbon offsets and from non-profit organisations willing to invest in protection of bio-diversity. It would also enhance the possibilities of creating the proposed Rainforest Foundation. Effective management of these protected areas will require substantial initial technical assistance, funding for training and for the few capital investments required to establish the protected areas.
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The Wildlife Services Unit, which regulates the wildlife trade, presently is poorly equipped to carry out this responsibility effectively. The monitoring and enforcement capabilities of the Wildlife Services Unit, as also the qualifications of its personnel, need to be strengthened. Its current mandate is only concerned with the harvest and export of wildlife and not with sustainable management of wildlife. To ensure that wildlife harvests do not exceed sustainable levels, closed seasons should be established for commercial species, with closed and open seasons for other species, together with appropriate export quotas which should be reviewed annually.
Studies need to be undertaken to determine population levels and breeding habits and seasons and Guyana will need funds and technical assistance to undertake this work. To cater for the time frame within which accurate population and harvest rates can be determined, interim conservation harvests need to be established. The Government will initiate collaborative research arrangements and seek novel ways to attract funding for population studies. The updating and enactment of the Government's Conservation of Wildlife Bill, together with implementing regulations, are needed.
Special emphasis will be placed on working with GGMC and the private sector in developing appropriate technologies and incentives for solving problems of degradation of waterways and pollution of surface and groundwater sources stemming from mining activities. To this end Government will develop standards for levels of substances to be discharged and conditions for their discharge. There should also be a sampling and monitoring routine for potential contaminants. Any mining method or equipment which is damaging to the environment should be prohibited after an appropriate transition period.
To reduce the environmental health issues related to the use and discharge of potentially dangerous substances and to mining activities that create the conditions conducive to the spread of diseases and disease vectors, emission standards will be developed and implemented and the activities monitored. The costs of mitigatory measures should be borne by the polluter. Similarly, to reduce the levels of ambient dust and particulate matter released as a result of mineral mining, processing and transshipment, all mining operations with the potential to increase such air pollutant levels should be required to install equipment and implement measures to reduce such levels.
Activities of small scale miners need to be regulated and monitored. In particular, ways will be sought to have gold ore and dredgings from small-scale and artisanal miners processed in regional mills where mercury pollution can be controlled. The higher recovery rate in such mills should provide an economic margin which can be shared with the miners, as incentives for them to cooperate in the scheme. Simultaneously, the GGMC should explore the possibilities of obtaining technical assistance on best practices used by counterpart small scale miners in highly regulated countries, like Canada.
Every mining operation will be required to present an EIA, that will need to be critically reviewed before approval of the activity. The technical capacity of the GGMC will need to be strengthened for the review of EIAs. Local people from the communities where the mining activities occur should be trained to assist the GGMC with basic facets of the monitoring programme once a concession has been issued.
The EPA will collaborate with the GGMC in monitoring progress on these important policy measures.
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1. Land issues
New policies for cost recovery are laid out in this Strategy in the relevant sectoral Chapters. As the Government reviews its economic policies in several areas, there is ample scope to apply cost recovery and "user pays" principles that will raise revenues and encourage conservation and environmental protection. Pricing policies for the use of government lands and for extraction of resources can be improved (see Chapter 29 on Agricultural Land Policy). Lease rates are being moved to market levels in stages and lease conditions are being modified to make them more suitable as collateral and more attractive to investors.
If the farmer has a clear title to the land being farmed, this by itself will create incentives for developing sustainable agricultural systems. A similar effect can be expected under the new class of leases.
Other measures to be taken in this area include:
(i) Giving the Lands and Surveys Commission autonomy, enabling it to have some degree of self-financing and allowing it to offer higher salaries, plus further strengthening, which will allow faster processing of lease applications.
(ii) Relaxing controls on rental rates of private land, so that there will be less temptation to leave the land idle.
(iii) Instituting a system of land taxes, for fiscal revenue purposes and also to discourage the practice of sometimes leaving land idle.
(iv) Facilitating the granting of freehold titles in selected areas where there has been long-run beneficial occupation of leasehold land.
(v) Amending legislation with a focus on removing constraints to registering property in the Land Registry System.
2. Secondary D&I Works
So as to ensure the efficient and sustainable use of water resources and protect the coastlands from flooding, pilot programs are being designed and implemented to transfer responsibility for secondary D&I management to the Water Users' Associations. The expectation is that by increasing the sense of ownership for resources, this will stimulate a greater responsibility in their use. Increased participation in D&I management is also possible by divesting responsibility to local governments and, ultimately, to the local communities themselves.
If local communities are to be empowered by involving them increasingly in service provision and resource allocation, the Government must seriously consider granting substantially greater autonomy to local authorities, primarily in the area of revenue generation and expenditure. Policies for this purpose are presented in Chapter 24, on the system of regional and local government.
Several quasi-governmental, NGOs and other organisations operate at the community level. At present a plethora of legislation covers cooperatives, friendly societies, producer associations, etc., which must be reviewed to remove constraints to their operations. Government should provide support facilities at the community level for such organisations, such as a Community Development Officer.
Agricultural research in Guyana is primarily publicly funded and the public sector needs to take the initiative in promoting technologies that are environmentally sensitive to local conditions. Numerous regional (CATIE and IICA) and international agencies (the CGIAR centers, in particular) are designed specifically to provide such technical assistance. To access this assistance will require strengthening of the National Agricultural Research Institution through training, in particular. Some work has already been begun on reducing chemical use in agricultural production in Guyana through integrated pest management trials.
The Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Bill, provides for regulation of the importation, sale and use of pesticides and toxic chemicals. Extension workers need to be trained in environmentally sustainable cropping activities for paddy production. The EPA will have the power to establish a regulatory regime and institutional framework for pollution control. A laboratory facility with chemical analysis facilities is an important investment priority if pesticide use is to be properly monitored.
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Concerns about the sustainability of yields from fisheries stocks underlie the policies presented in Chapter 31 and the National Fisheries Management and Development Plan. Those policies and the ten-year plan, and the associated investment projects, together aim to bring sustainable development to the fisheries sector, including aquaculture. The fundamental orientation of the policies is to promote a gradual shift in emphasis in the sector, so that the areas with the greatest potential are encouraged to expand at the same time that safeguards are put in place to ensure that important species are not overexploited and exhausted, which could deprive fishermen of their source of livelihood.
Increases in user charges (licences) will help to control excessive exploitation of the resources. Aquaculture will be encouraged given its economic potential, together with monitoring to ensure that its environmental impacts are limited. (For more detail see Chapter 31 on Fisheries Policy.)
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The objective for ecotourism development is to ensure that a high quality tourism product is made available in each specific area, without allowing tourism to have negative impacts on the natural environment or to disturb the plant and animal life. This will entail:
(i) identifying areas suitable for tourism development;
(ii) undertaking scientific research to determine the carrying capacity of sites selected for tourism activities;
(iii) implementing monitoring measures to ensure that the limits of carrying capacities are being observed;
(iv) in the absence of such limits, best-scenario decisions on arbitrary limits should be determined for each site and strictly enforced.
To ensure that accommodations for tourists interested in both nature and urban sites are in keeping with the environment, guidelines for the design and construction of tourist accommodation should be developed. Construction in the interior should be done to the extent possible with natural and indigenous materials. Zoning laws and their regulation should be developed and enforced.
While tourism should fully involve indigenous populations as participants and beneficiaries, their cultural identify must be preserved and protected and they should participate in developing policies to achieve these ends. Guyana's cultural heritage is regarded as part of the environment, and the EPA will work with the relevant bodies in the public and private sectors to promote its proper conservation and stewardship. For more details on tourism policies, see Chapter 37.
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Pollution abatement plans will not specify the technology to be used for reducing the pollution, but rather the maximum quantitative limits that are permissible and the corresponding time periods. Limits may be imposed either by source (e.g., firm), or, as an option for certain classes of pollutants, by environmental sink, such as rivers, aquifers and the soils in defined zones. When the limits correspond to an entire sink, the Government may consider instituting systems of tradeable pollution rights for given classes of pollutants. Direct controls on abatement technologies have been shown to be unduly costly ways to reduce pollution.
The collection and disposal of solid waste, which is limited to the Georgetown area, currently is free of charge, but it needs improvement. Households improperly dispose of solid wastes owing to lags in collection times and non-maintenance of collection schedules for residential customers. In addition, an estimated 37 percent of garbage in Georgetown remains uncollected. The necessary improvement in solid waste management can be combined with introduction of collection fees or privatisation of the service through contracting it out. This would be a critical step in providing environmental services at a level that prevents grave public health hazards.
Solid waste management programmes will be drawn up by the EPA, made available for comment in draft, and, once approved, compliance with their regulations will be mandatory, as in the case of other classes of pollutants. These programmes will also specify measures and investments required to increase waste management capacities. Whenever possible, day-to-day waste management at the city and neighborhood level will be contracted out to private entities, while the public sector will maintain an overall supervisory role and will be responsible for seeing that adequate waste disposal sites are available.
As with other public services, an inadequacy of operating budgets has also troubled the water and sewerage sector. Yet there is abundant scope for recovering costs in this sector through the application of the appropriate charges. The prevailing picture is one of low water tariffs and low collection rates across the board for all uses of water. The water rate is as low as US$0.60 for some consumers. Outside the municipalities, the Regional Water Departments (RWD) manage to collect only from those who are willing to pay. Since the proceeds are deposited in the general revenue account and the RWD's operations are funded out of block grants from the Central Government, RWD do not have an incentive for financial self sufficiency. Therefore, they have no interest in undertaking proper billings or strengthening collecting performance. In 1992, cost recovery excluding depreciation, was as low as 3.4 percent in Regions 2 to 7. Clearly financial autonomy must be considered for these institutions.
In keeping with the priority given to public health issues, emphasis will be given to replacing over time Georgetown's reliance on groundwater with piped water from upstream supplies. Investment priorities will include better sewage treatment facilities and/or extending Georgetown's current sewage outtake to several kilometres offshore.
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A number of the issues outlined in the sectoral and cross-sectoral objectives discussed above have a specific impact on Amerindian communities. The issues mainly relate to rights to the land, benefits from exploitation of natural resources on that land and in the sub-soil, and the participation of Amerindians in decisions that affect their present and future.
1. Land and Exploitation Rights
To date the Amerindian communities have not received compensation for the exploitation of natural resources on land to which they lay claim. The National Development Strategy proposes that a legal basis for such claims be identified, as is currently proposed for agricultural land for all Guyanese (see below), as well as an administrative system for the payment of royalties to Amerindian communities by concession holders who exploit natural resources on the lands to which the Amerindians lay claim. (See Chapter 22 on Amerindian issues.) A new Amerindian Act, or changes to the existing Act, or a system of treaties or agreements between Amerindians and the Government of Guyana, could guarantee Amerindian communities entitlement to land and the exploitation of natural resources, including, in particular, sub-soil resources on those lands. All activities that could have impacts on natural resources in Amerindian areas should be subject to an EIA.
Mining, whether alluvial or hardrock mining, river dredging or land mining causes disturbances to the environment that adversely affect the living conditions of Amerindians. To reduce the chances of degradation of the environment and erosion of the traditional way of life of Amerindians, the National Development Strategy proposes the formulation and implementation of a long-term land use plan which prohibits mining in Amerindian areas unless measures to limit degradation and to implement mitigation measures are guaranteed.
3. Intellectual Property Rights
To protect against the loss of intellectual property rights by foreign or private sector companies and research institutions, the activities of such companies in areas of traditional Amerindian knowledge should be monitored. Government will review the possibility of adopting the model provisions proposed by the World Intellectual Property Rights Organisation (WIPO) for protection against illicit exploitation of indigenous intellectual property.
4. Participatory Natural Resources Management
Amerindians are insufficiently involved in the management, administration and conservation of natural resources. Policies and mechanisms need to be established, possibly with assistance from NGOs with relevant experience, to grant substantially greater autonomy and foster greater community involvement in natural resource and environmental management.
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Guyana is a party to several multilateral treaties. However, the country has not been aggressive in bringing its domestic law into line with its international obligations, except as for UNCLOS III. This deficiency is particularly notable with regard to CITES. Guyana is also not a party to several multilateral treaties which are relevant to its circumstances. Notably these include the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of international significance, the London Guideline for the exchange of information on chemicals in international trade, the Cartagena Convention on the marine environment in the Wider Caribbean Region, and the Kingston Protocol on Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW).
A review of the legislation reveals that the law is relatively up to date only in the area of the management of non-renewable natural resources. Work remains to be done on legislation and regulations for the protection of wildlife, the designation and management of protected areas, the preparation of plans for control of municipal and industrial pollution and their enforcement (particularly in the coastal zone), the handling of agrochemicals, and the requirement of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for development projects.
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Steps have been taken to remedy some deficiencies in the environmental laws and the following new legislative measures are under preparation:
(i) The Guyana Biosphere Reserves Bill, authorising the establishment and management of biosphere reserves in Guyana;
(ii) The Conservation and Wildlife Bill, providing for the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries and the protection of listed wild animals and birds;
(iii) The Pesticides and Toxic Chemical Control Bill, providing regulation of the importation, sale, and use of pesticides and toxic chemicals; and
(iv) The Environmental Protection Bill, which creates an Environmental Protection Agency with powers to ensure effective management of natural resources and establish a regulatory regime for pollution control. This Agency will have the powers to require that an Environmental Impact Assessment be submitted and reviewed for new activities. (Because of its importance, this Bill is reviewed in detail below.)
Given our national economic development agenda, it is urgent to move forward rapidly with legislative reform. The following are areas in which legislative changes are necessary:
(i) Consolidation and revision of existing legislation in the various sectors, incorporating new environmental protection provisions.
(ii) Preparation of consequential amendments to related legislation.
(iii) Preparation of new legislation to repeal and replace existing but outdated Wildlife and National Parks and Protected Areas legislation.
It must be stressed, however, that the policy issues identified in this sectoral strategy must be considered in conjunction with the proposal for the Draft Environmental Protection Bill (1995) and the creation of the EPA (see below). The functions of the EPA, the mechanisms for the execution of its mandate and the provisions specified must be the guiding principles for legislative reform and will serve the purpose of reconciling deficiencies and overlaps.
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Given the basic accepted policy of the need for the establishment of an EPA the functions of this soon-to-be-created agency as outlined in the Draft Environmental Protection Bill (1995) are:
(i) to take such steps as are necessary for the effective management of the natural environment to ensure conservation, protection and sustainable use of its natural resources;
(ii) to promote the participation of members of the public in the process of integrating environmental concerns in planning for development on a sustainable basis;
(iii) to coordinate the environmental management activities of all persons, organisations and agencies;
(iv) to establish, monitor and enforce environmental regulations;
(v) to prevent or control environmental pollution;
(vi) to coordinate an integrated coastal zone management programme;
(vii) to ensure that any developmental activity which may cause an adverse effect on the natural environment be assessed before such activity is commenced and that such adverse effect be taken into account in deciding whether or not such activity should be authorised;
(viii) to establish and maintain a programme for the conservation of biological diversity and its sustainable use;
(ix) to coordinate the establishment and maintenance of a national parks and protected area system and a wildlife protection management programme;
(x) to promote and encourage a better understanding and appreciation of the natural environment and its role in the social and economic development;
(xi) to establish and coordinate institutional linkages locally, nationally, regionally and internationally;
(xii) to play a coordinating role in the preparation and implementation of cross-sectoral programmes with environmental content;
(xiii) to advise the Minister on matters of general policy relating to the protection, conservation and care of the environment and the impact of development;
(xiv) to perform such other functions pertaining to the protection of the environment as may be assigned to it by the Minister by or under this Act or any other law.
In the exercise of its functions the Agency may:
(i) formulate and submit to the Minister policy recommendations and plans in furtherance of its functions;
(ii) conduct surveys, investigations and monitoring of the causes, nature, extent and prevention of harm to the environment and of pollution and assist and cooperate with other persons or bodies carrying out similar surveys or investigations;
(iii) conduct, promote and coordinate research in relation to any aspect of pollution or prevention thereof;
(iv) conduct investigations and inspections to ensure compliance with this Act or the regulations and investigate complaints relating to breaches of this Act or the regulations made thereunder;
(v) provide information and education to the public regarding the need for methods of protection of the environment, improvement of the environment where altered directly or indirectly by human activity and the benefits of sustainable use of natural resources;
(vi) conduct and coordinate compilation of resource inventories, surveys and ecological analyses to monitor and obtain information on the social and biophysical environment with special reference to environmentally sensitive areas and areas where development is already taking place or likely to take place;
(vii) formulate standards and codes of practice to be observed for the improvement and maintenance of the quality of the environment and limits on the release of contaminants into the environment;
(viii) request, examine, review, evaluate and approve or reject environmental impact assessments and risk analyses and make suitable recommendations for the mitigation of adverse effects of any proposed activity on the environment;
(ix) conduct studies and make recommendations on standards relating to the improvement of the environment and the maintenance of a sound ecological system;
(x) monitor and coordinate monitoring of trends in the use of natural resources and their impact on the environment;
(xi) establish and enforce administrative penalties;
(xii) advise the Minister on the content and applicability of environmental control instruments;
(xiii) produce sectoral guidelines on what may constitute significant effects on the environment;
(xiv) obtain expert or technical advice from any suitably qualified person on such terms and conditions as the Agency shall think fit.
In the exercise of its functions the Agency also shall:
(i) compile with the assistance of internationally recognised environmental groups a list of approved persons who have the qualifications and experience to carry out environmental impact assessments;
(ii) produce physical accounts in accordance with modern accounting standards to record the natural capital of Guyana;
(iii) carry out surveys and obtain baseline information on the natural resources including ecosystems and micro-ecosystems, population counts, species identification, location and condition and make such surveys, studies and information available to members of the public at their request and upon payment of the cost of photocopies;
(iv) provide general information to the public on the state of the environment by regular reports produced at least annually;
(v) maintain and make available to members of the public during normal working hours a register of all environmental impact assessments carried out, environmental authorisations granted and other information in accordance with section 36.
In performing these functions, the Agency shall make use of current principles of environmental management, namely:
(i) the "polluter pays principle": the polluter should bear the cost of measures to reduce pollution decided upon by public authorities to ensure that the environment is in an acceptable state, and should compensate citizens for the harm they suffer from pollution;
(ii) the "precautionary principle": where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation;
(iii) the "strict liability" legal principle: any person who contravenes this Act or regulations shall be liable to the penalties prescribed thereafter;
(iv) the "avoidance" principle: it is preferable to avoid environmental damage as it can be impossible or more expensive to repair rather than prevent damage;
(v) the "state of technology" principle: measures protecting the environment are restricted by what is technologically feasible and as technology improves, the improved technology should be used to prevent and repair environmental damage.
The Draft Environmental Protection Bill (1995) also addresses the matter of deference to authority of Agency by stating "Without prejudice to the provisions of section 14, any person or authority under any other written law, vested with power in relation to the environment shall defer to the authority of the Agency and shall request an environmental authorisation from the Agency before approving or determining any matter in respect of which an environmental authorisation is required under this Act."
1. 0The 1995 Group of various businesses that trade in wood products in Europe is committed to using eventually only timber from sustainable producers. In the United States changes are proposed to the national building code that would require builders to use timber from well-managed sources.
2. 0Guyana has already received one GEF grant for Iwokrama and has requested a second one to establish a system of National Parks and Protected Areas (see below).