The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held an interactive workshop on Friday, in the Pomeroon-Supenaam region to enlighten small forest operators about the need to have an Environmental Authorisation.
According to a Department of Public Information (DPI) press release, this is a critical requirement for operating in the country’s forests and the first such workshop was held in Region Ten last December. Forest operators from villages across the region, including Indigenous communities were all part of the exercise. During the workshop, they were given an in-depth presentation which explained the Environmental Authorisation, why it is important to have one, where to apply for one and how to fill out the requisite forms, the release added.
Aside from the theoretical aspect of the session, they were also taken to a nearby sawmill for a first-hand view on how to protect themselves and the environment. The operators were very vocal and asked questions throughout the workshop, all to ensure that they fully understood what was required of them.
Participants were high in praise for the initiative taken to bring them up-to-date with the requirement for protecting the environment. Judy Marslow of Bethany was quoted as saying, “For me it is realising that everything around you has its positive and negative which is either being used or abused and we really need to take it seriously the things we do every day and take for granted… There must be some sort of system and control of how things are being done and if we do not, maybe somewhere down the road, we might regret it.” Toshao of Akawini, David Wilson, said that the indigenous people have for centuries taken care of the environment how they know best. “Learning today more about the way to go, is a plus for us so that we can take back to our communities and enlighten our villages on what they need to do,” the Toshao added and called for similar workshops to be held more frequently. Leo Gomes of Lake Mainstay noted that he was pleased by the efforts of the EPA to educate the people on how to care for the environment. “I am thankful for the education they have given concessionaires, small and big, where you can obtain licences… I see that it if fit and very much acceptable,” Gomes stated.
Senior Environmental Officer, Colis Primo said that with the completion of the workshop, he hopes that persons will make an effort to acquire the Environmental Authorisation.
“This is a continuous process and we will continue to work with them. They would have highlighted some challenges that they foresee in the authorisation process and we intend to work with them in terms of resolving those challenges because we would be happy if by tomorrow, they could submit their applications,” Primo was quoted as saying.
The workshop is aimed at ensuring that all forest operators are authorised. This is in keeping with Section 14 of the Environmental Act which states, “Before harvesting and utilising forest resources, an operator must first seek permission from the Environmental Protection Agency.” That permission is the Environmental Authorisation which not only seeks to protect the environment, but also the health of those involved.
The DPI disclosed that throughout 2019, the EPA will be conducting similar workshops countrywide to encourage more forest operators to be authorised. The Environmental Authorisation application process costs $10,000 and once approved, a fee of $20,000 per year. Alternatively, operators may apply for a maximum environmental authorisation at $100,000 for five years.
The outreaches will focus on sensitising forest operators about the European Union/Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (EU/FLEGT) agreement with Guyana, to protect the environment. Hence, the move by the EPA, to get all forest operators on board with best environmental practices in order to mitigate any negative impact on the environment, which may result from their actions.