-250 km jungle road would have to be built
A proposed logging operation in a biodiversity rich area in the Upper Essequibo will increase access and business opportunities for harvesters and developers of non-timber forest resources but there will be loss of wildlife.
Sherwood Forest Incorporated (SFI) – a logging company has been awarded a State Forest Exploratory Permit (SFEP) to carry out works in the Upper Essequibo and Berbice area within Region Six. The concession encompasses 167, 066 hectares of forest bordered by the Corentyne, Essequibo and Berbice rivers. It lies immediately north of a concession (SFEP) held by Simon & Shock International Logging and the Conservation Concession held by Conservation International (Guyana) Inc. The nearest communities to the concession area are Apoteri (80km), Rewa (112km) and Crash Water (160km), all situated on the right bank of the Rupununi River.
The project summary says that the primary goal of the company is to acquire a forest concession agreement that grants rights to engage in the sustainable production of value-added timber products for the local and export markets. The primary objective of SFI is to engage in commercial harvesting of timber at a rate of about 35 000 m3 timber per annum (on a 25 year felling cycle) from the concession area.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a notice published in the Guyana Chronicle yesterday advised that the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the proposed logging project has been submitted to the agency. It invited members of the public within 60 days of the publication of the notice to review the report and make such written submissions to the EPA as they consider appropriate.
The ESIA Report is one of the requirements for the granting of a forest concession agreement to Sherwood Forrest Inc. It was compiled by an inter-disciplinary team based on information garnered from stakeholder concerns expressed at two scoping meetings-February 4, 2010 at Annai and February 8, 2010 in Georgetown, one-on-one interviews with a large number of persons and with representatives of public agencies, visits to communities in the North Rupununi, site surveys during period November 2009 to February 2010, reviews of some sectored studies and review of legislation, policies, guidelines and standards on various matters pertinent to the study
Sherwood’s Principals include Yvonne Bell, a Guyanese residing in the USA for about 40-45 years; Dr. Gary Clarke; and Chu Hong Bo, a Chinese investor. Dr. Patrick Williams, a director for the company, is also an advisor.
The ESIA noted that the project site is located in the heart of the Essequibo drainage system forming part of a dynamic wetland ecosystem. This ecosystem in the wet season merges with the Amazonia and Orinoco floodwaters making it a very special and biologically diverse area in the world. The Rupununi/Essequibo boasts a known species diversity of 410 freshwater fish and new species are expected to be found.
The flood systems are also evident in the dominance of the species of hardwood known commonly as Mora
The draft ESIA says that the “more critical” positive impacts at the environmental level include improved post logging grazing for terrestrial animals (especially deer, tapirs and agouti) due to new growth in gaps, and at the edges of trails and roads; Opportunities for the accelerated development of juvenile under-storey trees (poles and seedlings) that are released as a result of the felling of trees with large crowns in the upper storeys; Improved access and business opportunities for harvesters and developers of non-timber forest resources respectively; Opportunities to identify new unique biodiversity assets and protect them and; Opportunities to discover major historical, religious or indigenous assets and to protect them.
The negative impacts include contributing to temporary sediment loads and potentially oil-grease content in natural waterways, leading to short term degradation of riverine bio-diversity; Temporary but brutal short term distress to terrestrial fauna generally and to arboreal fauna in particular leading to their short term (but temporary) migration from traditional habitats and potential population depletion through higher density levels (animals per unit area), higher predation levels and higher levels of competition for available food as well as the disruption of natural cycles of fruit predation and seed dispersal will be affected.
There will also be loss of biodiversity through the harvesting of sound trees of good form, the death of juvenile arboreal animals trapped in trees and the destruction of epiphytes and the destruction of seedlings of rare or endemic plants wherever tree felling occurs, along roads and skid trails, at borrow pits and log markets, the draft ESIA says.
As regards the impacts on the landscape, positively, there will be opportunities to integrate landscape planning methodologies to the logging operations and opportunities to conserve unique landscapes, the ESIA says. The negative impacts will include degradation of landscapes through road construction, the felling of emergent trees, and the creation of gaps due to roads, log markets and borrow pits; degradation of landscapes through modification of water courses near bridges and culverts and; mild but temporary discolouration of stream water due to accelerated erosion arising from soil disturbance and erosion.
On the social level, the ESIA said that positive impacts include opportunities for the training and employment of residents of the northern Rupununi generally, and of women in particular; opportunities for business enterprises (SFI will purchase poultry meat, fresh vegetables and fruits from villagers in the North Rupununi); and improved (and alternative routes) for the movement of people and goods to and from the North Rupununi.
The ESIA identified the negative impacts as it relates to the access road as distress to ‘communities’ along the road route from noise and dust pollution due to the frequent and regular passage of heavy-duty logging trucks; distress to drivers of other vehicles using the access road, due to dust and smoke the need to exercise care at all times, and in particular where the road straddles a narrow saddle or crosses a waterway;
As it relates to the North Rupununi, the negative impacts include an anticipated increase in social problems in the North Rupununi due to higher cash flows among younger people in and around the North Rupununi; potential erosion of some cultural values and norms (for example diet and religion) due to mixing of indigenous peoples and ‘outsiders’; and conflicts arising from differing cultural values between indigenous communities and other employees.
Meantime, the ESIA said that consistent with timber production activities, SFI will embark on road works and the construction of base camps necessitating the deployment and use of heavy duty machines, and the daily use of logging trucks capable of conveying up to 40 m3 timber per trip (for distances up to 250km). In addition, SFI will establish fully functional facilities to accommodate workers at a satisfactory standard, for servicing and repairing all machines, and for processing timber.
To deploy the necessary productive assets and to extract timber, SFI needs to construct an all weather access road of about 250km linking Kwakwani on the right bank of the Berbice River to the northern boundary of the concession area; this access road alignment will traverse extensive parcels of intact (unlogged) forests and possibly encourage the development of (new) agricultural, forest and mining concessions situate between Kwakwani and the concession area, the ESIA states. The company also believes that that access road (when linked to concession roads) will eventually provide options for a major road link between the Corentyne coast (Region 6) and the Rupununi (Region 9).
Four major categories of activities are contemplated by SFI: the first, Phase I, is to identify a suitable access road from the Kwakwani District to the northern part of the concession area, a distance of 250 km, more or less; secondly, SFI will organize the concession area for timber production (Phase II) and then (thirdly) carry out actual logging operations (Phase III); finally, the company will carry out sawmilling operations within the concession area using portable sawmills or chainsaw milling (Phase IV).
Addressing mitigation measures, the ESIA says that SFI’s strategy will revolve around three pillars; the training of all operatives, partnerships with key stakeholders, and planning of all operations. “Given the challenges which the company would face to harvest timber from the concession area, it is vital that all operatives are trained to better optimise the use of assets, reduce costs and ensure that timber extracted is of adequate quality (or acceptable grades). SFI needs partnerships to succeed”, the report says.
According to the ESIA, the local community of Apoteri is in relative proximity to the area and is expected to benefit and may also be affected in negative ways from the establishment of a permanent logging and processing facility at the concession area. Of major importance is the location of a Conservation Concession on the southern border of the concession. “The presence of CI’s concessions in close proximity to the site will have some levels of negative impacts as locals grapple to understand the seemingly conflicting objectives of these two entities”, it says.