…Seeks special sectoral meeting to probe operations
A Partnership for National Unity is currently seeking the intervention of the Speaker of the House, Raphael Trotman, to call an “extraordinary sector committee meeting” to have Bai Shan Lin officials come to Parliament and explain their operations in Guyana.
Parliamentarian Joseph Harmon told Kaieteur News that he does not believe that the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) is showing the type of energy to facilitate an investigation of this magnitude.
Harmon said that all operations of logging should be halted immediately and Parliament should seek a full explanation about what the company is doing.
Harmon said that he called the Chairman for the Natural Resources Sector Committee Odinga Lumumba, to discuss the matter, and asked him to facilitate a meeting.
However, Harmon said that Lumumba seems very reluctant to meet and discuss the issue. Harmon is insisting that one “cannot sit down and allow the country’s resources to be taken”. He noted that he has sought the Speaker’s intervention to find out whether an “extraordinary meeting” can he held. He said that in doing so they would have the company summoned to Parliament to give answers. “I don’t believe that one entity in any single place has their finger on what is taking place with this company” Harmon told Kaieteur News.
Another issue of concern Harmon said, is the “duty free concessions” which were granted to the company.
All this is being done against the backdrop of the Environmental Protection Agency saying the company does not have permission to cut or log. He said that more investigation needs to be done to ascertain under what conditions the duty free concessions were given to the company, if at the time when the vehicles were being brought in, the State Exploratory Permit didn’t exist.
Over the weekend the (EPA) denied ever giving the Chinese company, Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc. any permission to do logging. A senior official at the EPA said that as it 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 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 a licence.
Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc. is yet to actually receive a logging licence, but the company has teamed up with four others in joint ventures to export billions of dollars 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.
That document allows Bai Shan Lin to do an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment. The company is also required to do a forestry inventory and business plan which is to be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
To circumvent the requirements, Bai Shan Lin has opted for joint venture deals with Karbana Wood, Wiacho, HaimoraKabra 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, the company 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, 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. These 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).
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