The creation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNRE) following the November 2011 elections has resulted in serious staffing issues at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since persons have been transferred to the ministry or one of its programmes.
This is according to the annual report of the EPA for the year 2012, released in electronic form in the National Assembly last week.
According to the report, six staff members from the EPA’s core programme were assigned by the MNRE to its Head Office, the National Parks Commission, and the Pick-it-Up Campaign. “As a result, the Natural Resources Management Division battled without a director and a special projects officer, for the entire year. Similarly, the Education, Information and Training Division operated without its sole senior environmental officer and one of its 4 environmental officers,” the report said.
The report said that there was no movement on the agency’s proposal to split the Environmental Management Division (EMD) into two divisions, each to be managed by a director.
“As such, the EMD continued to grapple with an increasingly excessive workload throughout the year exacerbated by frequent staff turnover,” the report said.
“The agency also grappled with the challenge of completing its work-plan for the year in face of the late receipt of its subvention due to a lengthy delay in the passing of the 2012 National Budget. A total subvention of $160,920,000 was received for year, with $31,000,000 of this amount coming from the Environmental Trust Fund,” the report said.
The EPA said the Marriott project was among 316 environmental authorisations issued during the year and this figure represented an increase of 2 per cent over that of 2011. The permits granted included 65 environmental permits, 75 operational permits, 5 construction permits, 6 letters of authorisation, and 165 noise permits.
“From the granted permits, two EIA projects, Marriot Hotel and ETK Mining were issued environmental authorisations in May and July 2012, respectively,” the report said.
According to the report, the Monitoring and Enforcement Unit’s monitoring activities increased significantly during 2012. A total of 91 environmental audits were conducted for the reporting period.
During the year, the EPA received 73 applications for renewal of environmental authorisation, one for transfer, and 10 for variance.
“Furthermore, the unit worked along with other units to investigate complaints and recommend enforcement action to be taken. The unit also reviewed numerous monitoring and compliance reports, environmental management plans (emps), annual reports and closure plans during the year, and made recommendations,” the report said.
“The agency improved the enforcement of the Environmental Protection Act through the issuance of Prohibition Notices. A total of two Prohibition Notices were issued in 2012,” the report said.
“The agency also proceeded with enforcement action through the courts filing injunctions against those persons who were non-compliant with the prohibition notices,” the report said. The EPA said that at the end of 2012, four cases were ongoing and these were D.R. Dhunmun (Swine Rearing Operation), Rajunauth Iserdar (Swine Rearing Operation), Jadoo Narine and Hardat Narine (Service Station) and Leondre Ramcharran (Spray Painting Operation).
“The agency has also sought to strengthen its compliance monitoring towards resolving cases of persistent environmental nuisance, eg Bosai at Linden and Hakh Rice Mill at Cane Grove, Mahaica. In that regard, the agency has conducted extensive monitoring of air quality at the Hakh Rice Mill during the months of April and November, 2012,” the report said.
The EPA pointed to the need for an in-house legal officer so as to enable it to engage legally with offenders to the Act. “…there are many cases which need legal attention and the current arrangements do not facilitate the speedy response from the current legal representative,” the report said.
The EPA report said that the Mining and Forestry Unit received the highest number of applications for the development of new projects. “Lumber and lumber processing facilities accounted for the largest number of applications received. This trend highlights the importance of establishing sustainable logging practices in keeping with the Low Carbon Development Strategy,” the report said.