The Environmental Prote-tion Agency (EPA) has refuted claims by South American Woods Incor-porated (SAW Inc) that an application was denied for the establishment of a wood processing facility at Leonora, West Coast Demerara.
In documentation obtained by Stabroek News, it was stated that the EPA had never received an application for an environmental authorization for the project held by controversial New York-based businessman Edul Ahmad and Shareef Ahmad on behalf of SAW Inc.
The document from the permit division of the EPA dated June 19, 2014 states that “the agency has received an Application for Environmental Authorization from Mr Shareef Ahmad to operate a Transit Point for Logs at 29, Land of Canaan, East Bank Demerara. Mr Shareef Ahmad’s project underwent the Environmental Authorization Process and was subsequently issued an Environmental Permit (Ref# 20110209-SAWOO) on August 17, 2011 and expires on July 31, 2014.”
This would suggest that the company which controversially transformed its Leonora land into a housing estate recently had been interested in the export of logs from the very start.
SAW Inc Director, Shareef Ahmad had recently told Stabroek News that an application was made for the wood processing plant and that the application was denied by the EPA on the grounds that it would have a negative environmental impact due to chemical waste, dust and noise pollution.
Shareef Ahmad had said that he was upset that the requests for building approval in 2012 were formally rejected by the EPA and the Neighbourhood Democratic Council for the Leonora area in the beginning of 2013. He stated that as a result of this rejection “we were stuck with a piece of land in an industrial zone that we couldn’t use,” and the idea was to subsequently develop a housing scheme on the 17 acres of land purchased from GuySuCo’s former Plantation Groenveldt, West Coast Demerara for $80 million in February 2011.
Early in June this year it was revealed that the company had quietly approached Chief Justice Ian Chang’s court last year and secured an order to alter the conditions attached to the sale of the land. SAW Inc had filed an ex-parte summons on September 24 last year to amend the conditions stated in the transport for the land, to replace the industrial commercial clause to residential commercial. On October 2, 2013, Chief Justice Chang delivered a ruling in chambers on the matter of transport, ordering that the Registrar of Deeds make the relevant amendments to transform the conditions attached to the transport.
The method of altering the conditions of the transport raised questions as to whether the approach to the courts was the way in which this should have been done or whether these amendments needed to be blessed by application to the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC).
Months after SAW succeeded in securing an ex-parte order from the High Court, NICIL – the intermediary in the sale – and the lands and survey commission say they were unaware of the legal proceedings.
The GuySuCo land was originally sold to SAW with restrictive covenants requiring a wood processing facility. A request was also made by SAW before Justice Chang to completely delete the provision stating that a wood processing facility would need to commence first before any other potential land use.
The deletion of the portion has critics wondering if the intention was ever to build such a facility in the first place. Critics have raised questions over how such a large scale plan consisting of 87 house lots and a mall could have been put together so quickly following the Chief Justice’s order.
Since NICIL acted as the agent for the sale of the 17 acres of land on behalf of the Guyana Sugar Corporation), any matters taken to the courts for an amendment should as a courtesy be relayed to NICIL.
The GL&SC should also have been a party to the matter, sources say. Commissioner of GL&SC, Doorga Persaud told Stabroek News that he was still not aware of any summons other than what was reported in the media.
The connections between Ed Ahmad and former President Bharrat Jagdeo have placed this particular transaction under closer scrutiny.