The environmental permitting process to allow logging firm Baishanlin to begin operations at its forest concessions in regions Six and Nine has not yet been completed.
“The process is still ongoing,” an official told Stabroek News in a brief comment. It is not clear when the process would wrap up. Chairman of the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) Michael Williams told Stabroek News recently that since a scoping meeting at Apoteri in September, the team carrying out the Environ-mental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) had not contacted the communities again and they are concerned.
There should have been more communication and consultation with the communities and they are not satisfied with the current process, he said.
Baishanlin last June applied to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for permission to begin large-scale logging and sawmilling operations at its forest concessions in regions Six and Nine.
The project would entail the felling, extraction of timber and transportation of same to a processing facility, grading, construction of roads, skid trails, bridges, culverts, and camps with other ancillary facilities within the concession, the EPA said.
The EPA said that it recognises that the development may have significant impacts on the environment and an Environmental Impact Assessment is required before any decision to approve or reject the proposed project is taken.
The company has come under intense examination for failing to establish wood processing facilities while all the time engaged in the export of logs. Both Baishanlin and the government have said that its log exports are within allowable limits and there are no illegalities.
These statements have however been met with great skepticism. Baishanlin has issued press releases but has not answered questions from the media.
Baishanlin and the government face a series of unanswered questions over its operations here. Stakeholders, including the parliamentary majority opposition have called for the foreign direct investment contract with Baishanlin to be made public. No answer has yet been forthcoming on who crafted this agreement and on its availability.
The legality of Baishanlin’s landlording arrangement with a series of other forest concessionaires has been queried as the law that would cover this was brought into force long after this arrangement had begun. Logs have still however been drawn from various concessions.
Though it has been here since 2007 and benefited from tax concessions, there is no sign of any progress towards value-added processing.
Most of its infrastructure which has been drawn to the attention of the public by the media seems geared towards logging and shipping.
Stakeholders have questioned the justification for the tax concessions which were granted to it earlier.
There are also questions about the number of Guyanese who have been employed by Baishanlin versus the importation of Chinese labour for a variety of jobs that can be taken on by locals.
Questions have also been raised about Baishanlin’s connections with the government and its regulatory agencies. Baishanlin has built a parking lot for the Guyana Revenue Authority along the Lamaha Street embankment in what has been deemed an unacceptable arrangement.
The company has also snapped up real estate including the Casique building near the Providence Stadium which was intended to be a hotel for the 2007 Cricket World Cup but was not finished in time.
It had languished until last year when Baishanlin stepped in.
Apart from logging, Baishanlin is also eying expansion into a number of other areas including mining.