By Latoya Giles
Even though Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc. is yet to actually receive a logging licence, the company has teamed up with four companies in joint ventures to export billions of dollars worth in timber monthly.
One official from the Guyana Forestry Commission explained that Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development does not have an actual licence for the Exportation of Logs. What the company has is a State Forest Exploration Permit.
In that permit Bai Shan Lin is required to do an environmental and social assessment study. The company is also required to do a forestry inventory and business plan which is to be submitted to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
To circumvent the requirements, Bai Shan Lin has opted for the joint venture deals with Karbana Wood, Wiacho, Haimora Kabra and Paruni Wood Inc. The official said that as it is right now, there should be limited exploration logging.
It was noted that not much is done at the level of the Forestry Commission. “Most things fall under the Ministry of Natural Resources now,” the official told Kaieteur News.
In June Bai Shan Lin submitted an application to the Environmental Protection Agency seeking environmental authorization to undertake a large scale logging and sawmill operation.
According to the public notice which was published, the company asked for the authorization for several areas including the Left Bank Essequibo River, Right Bank Berbice River, Right Bank Essequibo River, Left Bank Corentyne River, Left Bank Lysles River, River Bank Berbice River and Right Bank Powis River, including Regions Nine and Six.
It was noted that the project would entail, felling, extraction of timber and transportation of same to a processing facility. They would also be doing grading, construction of roads, skid trails, bridges, culverts and camps with other ancillary facilities within the concession.
The EPA stated that it fully recognized that the impending works could have “significant impacts” on the environment. Thus, in keeping with the Environmental Protections Act of 1996, an “Environmental Impact Assessment” is required before any decision to approve or reject the project.
As such, the EPA had said that members of the public were invited within 28 days of the notice to make written submissions to it, setting out questions and matters which they required to be answered or considered in the “Environmental Impact Assessment”. It is unclear whether they have completed everything with the EPA.
Bai Shan Lin has been granted a forestry concession that amounts to close on one million hectares of rainforest, from which it plans to extract logs and ship them out of Guyana. The company estimates that it will make US$1,800 from each hectare of land, giving it profits totaling US$1.7 billion, according to redd-monitor.org.
In addition, it sought permission to dig up a 20-kilometre stretch of river to look for gold.
Other plans include setting up what it is calling a Guyana-China Timber Industry Economic and Trading Corporation Park, plus a 400-acre real estate development. The plans were announced in 2012 by Chu Wenze, Chairman of Bai Shan Lin, at the Second World Congress on Timber and Wood Products Trade in Taicang, China.
Those plans were announced even before Guyana knew of it. The country became aware of what was happening only when Bai Shan Lin officials visited Guyana and held discussions with President Donald Ramotar and other Government officials.
The state information agency, GINA had reported that Bai Shan Lin has been in Guyana over the past eight years with operations through the Bai Shan Lin Forest Development Inc. These include Haimorakabra Logging, Karlam South America Timbers, Wood Associated Industries, Kwebanna Wood Productions, Sherwood Forests, Bai Shan Lin Housing Construction, Mining development Inc. and Bai Shan Lin Ship Building and Heavy Industries Inc.
It has been contended that the law does not allow one logging company to take over another, unless the President so agrees.
On Redd-monitor.org, it was stated that in November 2012, Chu Wenze, the Chairman of Chinese logging company Bai Shan Lin, gave a presentation outlining his company’s plans for Guyana at the World Congress in Taicang, China. The company’s plans have threatened Guyana’s proposals to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.
Bai Shan Lin is part of a group of 11 companies operating in Guyana. The 11 are all part of the China Forest Industry Group (Hong Kong). These companies have seven logging concessions in Guyana, covering a total area of 960,000 hectares (about 4.5% of the area of the country).
In November 2012, Whu Wenze and David Dabydeen, Guyana’s Ambassador to China, took part in a signing ceremony for a loan from the Chinese Development Bank for Bai Shan Lin’s forestry projects in Guyana.
According to the website Global Timber, Bai Shan Lin’s concessions were acquired from other concession holders, a process known as “landlording” which is illegal in Guyana (unless officially authorised by the President). Under Guyanese law, forest concessions cannot be traded, but must be re-advertised by the Forestry Commission in an open auction.
Bai Shan Lin also ignored a cease order issued by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission at a sand excavation pit in Moblissa. The company has received no permission for excavation work in the area and this was the third time that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission had cause to issue a cease order. Bai Shan Lin also started construction of a road, without any permission.
Despite the company’s record, among its supporters is Guyana’s ex-President Bharrat Jagdeo, red-monitor.org stated. Jagdeo’s photograph was included in Chu Wenze’s presentation, as part of the Guyanese Project Promotion Team for an Economic and Trading Cooperation Park that Bai Shan Lin is developing in Guyana.
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