Proposed tree plantation can threaten historic sites – archaeologist

Archaeologist Louisa Daggers has expressed concern that China Paper Corporation’s proposed tree plantation in the intermediate savannahs of Berbice could impact significant archaeological sites.

“As a concerned citizen and a professional in the field of archaeology and cultural heritage protection I am a bit concerned about the China Paper tree-plantation project in the intermediate savannahs and its potential impact on locally and internationally significant archaeological/cultural sites within the Berbice river area,” Daggers wrote in a letter to Stabroek News.

“I will not give myself too much liberty as neither of the agencies specified the exact location of this development; however, from my personal research I am almost sure it is within the confines of the proposed study site for archaeological research in the coming years,” she said.

The anthropologist who is attached to the Amerindian Research Unit of the University of Guyana questioned why the issue is not being addressed by the media and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after several headlines by the cultural sector on the significance of the Berbice sites. She also pointed out that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed earlier this year with the University of Florida encouraging several years of research in Berbice.

“The EPA Act mandates that a cultural assessment be conducted whenever a project is being considered; this goes hand-in-hand with the EIA and the ESIA, so why has this not been addressed and is being ignored by the EPA,” Daggers questioned.

Earlier this year, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr Frank Anthony, in reviewing his ministry’s highlights for last year, said that a major archaeological find in the Berbice area, which has attracted foreign researchers, was a high point. Anthony had said the ministry would be partnering with a number of universities and other institutions to carry out research work at the archaeological site.

The site stretches beyond the Fort Nassau area where there is a huge savannah and Anthony said researchers had noticed a number of mounds rising up in the savannahs that might date back before the birth of Christ and was possibly the home of an ancient civilization. He had noted that since the site has attracted foreign researchers, the ministry would be monitoring all archeological excavations.

China Paper Corporation proposes to invest US$205 million in a tree plantation in the intermediate savannahs and has applied to the EPA for authorization. The EPA had said that Standard Agro-Forestry Inc. – which is wholly owned by China Paper – submitted an application for Environmental Authorization to develop a Tree Plantation and Agricultural project on 52,995 hectares of intermediate savannahs situated west of the Berbice River. The parcels of land are located in Regions Five and Ten.

“This development will entail cultivating fast-growing trees of the Acacia species which will be harvested to produce pellets for export. The site will also require the construction of houses and roads, felling of trees and the development of a Landing on the west bank of the Berbice River. Tree logs will be transported down the Berbice River to New Amsterdam where they will be processed into pellets,” the EPA said. The agency said that an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment is required for the project before any decision to approve or reject it since the development may have significant impacts on the environment.

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