…unable to say how much land under its control – Solomon
Investments in Region Ten must be mutually beneficial, but this is not the case with Bai Shan Lin. Instead, the Chinese company is raping the region of its resources through massive exploitation, says Region Ten Chairman, Sharma Solomon, who in an interview with this publication at his office in Linden on Wednesday, bemoaned what has been transpiring in the region in recent years, as it relates to the logging company.
Solomon told this publication that over 60 per cent of logging done in Guyana comes through or is from Region Ten.
Bai Shan Lin is now the largest logging operator in the country and according to Solomon, most of its logging is conducted in Region Ten.
“They are contributing significantly toward the exploitation of resources in that area,” said Solomon.
According to Regional Chairman, the company has massively expanded its operations, and to date, an Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) has not been done, despite repeated requests by the Region.
They (Bai Shan Lin) are far advanced in their operations and they have still not done an ESIA to see what impact they have on the people in the region, he said.
Another source of lamentation over the company has been its compliance with set regulations.
“We have always expressed concerns about Bai Shan Lin’s ability to comply with standards and regulations; we have always complained about that.”
He used as example the processing plant that the company has established along the Soesdyke/ Linden Highway and without compliance from any statutory agency, the company removed over 47,000 tonnes of loam to build the base of the plant, “in the process destroying and disrupting the lives of the people of Moblissa.”
According to Solomon, in the process of building the plant, the company completely destroyed the farm to market road, and it was only when the people threatened to shut down the company that any action was taken.
He said, too, that action on the part of Bai Shan Lin to repair the road also included an intervention by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds.
Solomon said, too, that the Region is still extremely concerned that to date the statutory agencies that should be certifying the actions of Bai Shan Lin may not be doing so. He told this publication that efforts by the Region to secure the necessary documentation to see that this is being done have proven futile thus far.
The statutory bodies that Solomon is referring to, include the Guyana Forestry Commission, Lands and Surveys, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commissions among others.
“We have always said that we welcome investments; that we welcome the opportunity to develop the Region.”
According to Solomon, the investments must be based on mutual benefits.
He said that the companies can be allowed to benefit, “but the community must be able to benefit and the people must also be able to feel comfortable that these investments will not disrupt their lives.”
Solomon said that Bai Shan Lin and the other loggers using the road are destroying it, and when they are approached to assist in repairing it, the companies insist that they already pay royalties and taxes to Government.
“I believe that those companies must understand it is not doing well for social corporate responsibility and the government too must understand that after taking so much taxes and making so much off of these infrastructure, they must be prepared to put back into it.”
Meanwhile, as it relates to the amount of lands that Bai Shan Lin is currently logging from within the region, Solomon said that this is difficult to assess.
He explained that it is difficult to ascertain the concessions under which Bai Shan Lin is operating, given that outside of what is registered officially at the Guyana Forestry Commission for them, “there is a new arrangement that exists in the Region now where many associations and many loggers with concessions are in essence sub-leasing.”
According to Solomon, there is a lot of intertwining of the holders of concessions and those who are exploiting the concessions. He noted too that many of those who would have collaborated with companies such as Bai Shan Lin are not reaping the benefits they would have signed on to.
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