The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied ever giving Chinese company, Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc. any permission to do logging. A senior official at the EPA said that as stands right now, Bai Shan Lin is having meetings with them regarding “scoping”.
It was explained that “scoping” is another aspect of its Environmental Assessment which Bai Shan Lin needs to complete.
The official maintained that as of yesterday Bai Shan Lin had no authority to do any “logging or harvesting”.
The official further told Kaieteur News that the EPA, once everything is done in accordance with the formal requirements, would grant Bai Shan Lin an “Environmental Authorization Permit” which gives the right to log and harvest timber.
But the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has denied that Bai Shan Lin was logging without licence.
Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc. is yet to actually receive a logging licence, but the company has teamed up with four companies in joint ventures to export billions of dollars worth in timber monthly.
Forestry officials 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 Impact 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 joint venture deals with Karbana Wood, Wiacho, Haimora Kabra and Paruni Wood Inc. The official said that at present, the company should only be engaging in limited exploration logging.
In June, Bai Shan Lin submitted an application to the EPA seeking environmental authorization to undertake a large scale logging and sawmill operation. That application is still pending.
According to the public notice which was published in June, 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 transporting the commodity to a processing facility. The company 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 impact” on the environment. Thus, in keeping with the Environmental Protections Act of 1996, an “Environmental Impact Assessment” is required before any decision is taken 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, setting out questions and matters which they required to be answered or considered in the “Environmental Impact Assessment”. It is unclear whether the company has completed the process 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 called 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.
Redd-monitor.org 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. They 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.
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