Minister of Natural Re-sources and the Environ-ment Robert Persaud is hopeful that the opposition APNU’s statements at a recent press briefing are an indication that it will support the ministry in full resource surveys of pristine forests.
According to a press release from the ministry, APNU Vice Chairman Dr Rupert Roopnaraine’s statements at APNU’s Weekly Press Briefing held on January 10 about the New River area as the “last pristine untouched area of the Guyana forest” may have been an attempt to “justify his party’s much-criticized objection to an assessment of the area’s mineral resources through a Permission for Geolo-gical and Geophysical Survey” (PGGS) for the company Muri Brasil ventures Inc.
According to the ministry, the resources in the New River are not limited to biodiversity but also include carbon sequestration services, potential eco-tourism activities, research and technical studies, bioprospecting and minerals and timber.
“Planning for a forest area of these characteristics, or more aptly called High Conservation Value Forest, requires adequate information, effective foresight and strategic coordination. For these reasons, it was identified as essential to effectively assess/survey the full resource base of this area,” the ministry said, adding that Dr Roopnaraine’s call for an assessment of the resource base would therefore be incomplete if it only examined the area’s biodiversity.
The ministry asserts that all resources, including minerals must be included to estimate the true value and wealth of an area. The results of such an assessment along with other non-environmental related considerations, should determine how and to what use the area can be put.
“This decision when effectively assessed and with adequate information, can mean that an area can be allocated for conservation, sustainable utilization, allocation as titled lands to Indigenous peoples, area management as community conservation area, a national protected area, or a wide gamut of options,” Persaud said. Therefore, the ministry remains focused on a full disclosure of the New River resource base, as well as other areas that have high conservation value.
According to the ministry, a national assessment conducted under the Guyana REDD+ programme, which has been subject to independent verification and certified as accurate, has found that Guyana has a total area of 18,487,876 hectares of forest remaining as at end of 2012 (assessments for year 2013 are currently ongoing). This assessment applies international definitional standards for forest under a climate change programme and set on the Marrakech Accords. The area has remained largely intact following years of historic and ongoing utilization activities. Guyana’s rate of deforestation has ranged between 0.02% to 0.079% over the past 22 years, the press release said.
Areas that have been set aside for use are allocated within a framework of sustainable management, for example, in the case of forest concessions where timber extraction is strictly regulated with a Code of Practice, among other requirements.
Pristine forest has also been allocated to the National Protected Area System.
Within the last two years, the areas that fall under the scope of the Protected Areas Act now number four: Iwokrama, Shell Beach, the Kanuku Mountains and Kaieteur National Park. These areas account for a total of 1,141, 000 hectares of pristine forest.