Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud yesterday rebuffed a Reuter’s article, “Norway oil fund excludes 2 Israeli companies” which he said conveyed the wrong message about logging operations in Guyana, and as such he had to offer some clarifications on a specific statement in the article.
He was referring to the statement: “The Ministry said it had excluded forestry company Samling Global based on the environmental impact of its forest operations in Malaysia and Guyana.”
That statement, according to Persaud, gives the false impression that Barama Company Limited’s (BCL) operations in Guyana have resulted in serious damage to the environment.
He said that the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) which is engaged in continuous monitoring of BCL’s operations has found little evidence to substantiate such a position.
Samling Global Ltd. has many companies that operate in several countries worldwide – Barama Company Limited (BCL) is one such company that has been operating in the forestry sector of Guyana since 1991.
Persaud stated that BCL has legal access to a forest concession in the North West District for an initial period of 25 years, adding that his state forest lease can be subject to renewal by the Government of Guyana if the company complies with the terms and conditions of this current agreement.
“It is a fact that before BCL can even engage in harvesting, an Annual Operational Plan (AOP) has to be submitted to the GFC for its approval…This AOP has to be prepared in accordance with the GFC guidelines for the preparation of AOPs.”
This AOP, according to Persaud, gives a concise but thorough summary of the previous year’s operation, pointing out that it provides a 100 per cent pre-harvest inventory of all commercial stems present in the 100 hectare blocks to be harvested in the calendar year.
The 100 per cent pre-harvest inventory must also be conducted in keeping with the GFC’s guidelines. GFC then conducts a random sample consistency check of the pre-harvest inventory. Approval for harvesting is only granted if the consistency check shows that the inventory results are credible and accurate.
Persaud stressed that the harvesting quota is strictly monitored to ensure that it is within the Annual Allowable Cut, and also extracted from within the Annual Allowable Area.
The Company has complied with an obligation to set aside 4.5 per cent of the total concession area as a biodiversity reserves, “this is a permanent reserve and is representative of the concession ecosystem.”
Actual harvesting, the Minister stressed, must be compliant with the GFC guidelines for sustainable forest management as established in the Code of Practice (CoP) for forest operations.
This CoP outlines the environmental and social best practices that the company (and all other companies) must practice in the course of the extraction activities.
To ensure that the CoP is practically implemented on the ground, the GFC and the Forestry Training Centre Incorporated (FTCI) provide training in Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) to the sector at cost recovery rates.
“BCL has taken advantage of these training opportunities over the years and they are the major client of the FTCI which has trained in excess of 1600 persons to date…Monitoring of the operations is done by a core team of approximately 10 full-time GFC officers who are based at the concession and are rotated on a regular basis.
The officers check for compliance with the elements of the CoP; assess royalties based on volume of forest produce harvested; verify that the required documentation is accurately completed and processed in a timely manner; verify that the log tagging and log tracking system is fully functional so that forest produce can be traced to its origin if necessary among other pertinent data.
“The same thorough system of checks and balances apply to logs that are processed to added value products, and then either sold locally or exported.”
He explained that apart from the core team of officers, there are at least two other levels of monitoring checks: first, by the GFC Legality, Monitoring and Extension Unit; and secondly, by the GFC Internal Audit Unit.
Persaud said that in recent checks some deficiencies were identified, such as poor sanitation in some areas of the operation; “a few skid trails were poorly planned, the use of safety gears in some areas of operation needed to be improved, housing facilities for GFC officers needed to be improved, and there were a few instances of proximity trees being felled closer than was allowable.”
The Minister emphasised that in all cases, the company was written to and required to address the aspects such as the use of safety gears, poor sanitation etc., within a specified time.
“Follow up visits were conducted to ensure that these matters were speedily addressed…The company was also required to address the environmental breaches such as felling of proximity trees by the payment of compensation…I therefore, wish, to respectfully differ with the statement which implies that the operations of BCL in Guyana have caused a negative impact on the environment.”
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