Bai Shan Lin forest holdings prompt landlording concerns

- Forestry Commissioner says all arrangements legal

In a Power of Attorney, seen by Stabroek News, Bai Shan Lin International identified its subsidiary companies as Karlam South America Timbers (Guyana) Inc, Haimorakabra Logging Company Inc, Sherwood Forest Inc, Wood Associates Industries Ltd and Kwebanna Wood Products Inc.

Repeated attempts and efforts to speak with officials of Bai Shan Lin, which is expected to undertake a US$100 million operation encompassing almost one million hectares of forest for its harvesting, were unsuccessful.

However, when asked last month about the size of the area the company had access to, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environ-ment Robert Persaud said Bai Shan Lin had access to three concessions where full-scale harvesting operations were being undertaken through legal joint venture arrangements.

He explained that while Bai Shan Lin had direct access to 83,307 hectares, it also had legitimate access via State Forest Exploratory Permits (SFEP’s) to 345,865 hectares.

“These SFEPs can be converted to Timber Sales Agreements upon satisfactory completion and [government] acceptance/approval of a comprehensive Environ-mental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), Forest Inventory and Strategic Business Plan. In addition, they have expressed strong interest in getting involved in legal joint ventures with other existing large concessions,” he said.

But Bulkan told Stabroek News she believes Bai Shan Lin is engaged in the practice of “landlording,” which is illegal under Forest Regulations 1953, Article 12 of which states: “No transfer of any lease or timber sales agreement shall be made by any forest officer without the prior approval of the President where such lease or timber sales agreement grants exclusive rights to any person over an area estimated to exceed three thousand acres or is for an unexpired period exceeding three years.”

She said landlording is also illegal under Condition 13 of Timber Sales Agreements, which states “The grantee shall not transfer, sublet, mortgage or otherwise dispose of any interest arising under this agreement except in accordance with the Forest Regulations and any purported disposition made except in accordance with such regulations shall be null and void.”

She noted that landlording is also illegal under Condition 2 of 16 of State Forest Permissions, which states: “This Permit is not transferable without the prior consent in writing of the Commissioner. It may not be assigned or sublet nor may the grantee allow any person to work under it on payment to the Grantee of any consideration whatsoever.”

According to Bulkan, landlording is only permissible with express authority from the President, who is the Minister of Forestry, notwithstanding the portfolio of the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment.

She explained that when concession holders contract labour for specific tasks without passing on any managerial control it is called sprinting and it is a longstanding practice in the forestry sector.

It is a way of keeping recurrent costs low while at the same time being able to respond to specific orders for timber. She said it is covered by Condition 14 in Timber Sales Agreements which states: “The grantee [that is, the holder of the TSA concession] shall inform the Grantor [the Guyana Forestry Commission] in writing immediately upon engagement of the names of the agents and contractors who are and the dates when they cease, to carry out its operations in the Area.”

According to James Singh, Commissioner of Forests at Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), the arrangements between Bai Shan Lin and the many smaller companies have been done in a transparent manner and have been approved by the GFC Board.

Recently APNU MP Joseph Harmon, who sits on the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources, said the impact of Bai Shan Lin’s various operations on the environment must be examined given the scope and magnitude of the planned investments.

“I sit on the Natural Resources Committee and projects like these have to come under the microscope of the committee.

That company is also involved in sand mining, forestry and other activities,” he said.  Harmon added that APNU is not prepared to accept the dearth of information with regard to the company’s operation especially when such a large chunk of the country is being given to it for exploitation. “We are not going to sit idly by and see our resources be given away like that.

All of those contracts have to be overseen by the committee,” he said.

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