– Residents and photos of parked trucks tell totally different story
Information provided by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) regarding logging activities
by Chinese-owned Bai Shan Lin in Kwebana, Region One, in Essequibo, is totally false.
The information has raised further questions about what other information provided by GFC is also untrue.
Last week, in published statements and again on Monday during a press conference at the agency’s Kingston head office, Commissioner James Singh said that for the year, no logging activities took place in the Kwebana concession – an area of 87,361 hectares that is under the control of the Chinese company.
The table, which Kaieteur News is publishing with this article, and which was presented to reporters during a press conference on Monday, indicates that Kwebana saw some 10,188 cubic metres logged last year. However, for this year, GFC claims that no logging activities took place there. The figure for the production provided was zero.
This is a startling claim from GFC, especially since Kaieteur News flew over the area last week and saw activities ongoing. There was an entire line of Bai Shan Lin trucks with logs parked at a section of the
Kwebana concession. There were GFC tags and official markings on the logs – a clear indication that logs were being harvested with the full knowledge of the forest rangers.
Commissioner Singh himself, in acknowledging the photos on Monday, said that the trucks may have been parked there as rain probably fell and it is standard procedure by logging companies to halt transportation of logs until the roads are in a better condition.
The GFC figures would also be in sharp contrast to what residents of Kwebana, a small Amerindian community about 40 miles away, told Kaieteur News. They confirmed that logging activities are indeed taking place in the area.
GFC and the government have been facing questions over the country’s logging policies and its seeming cozy relationship with a number of foreign companies, especially those from Asia, and including both Chinese- and Indian-owned operations.
The Kwebana concession, according to GFC, was in the hands of well-known sawmiller, A Mazaharally and Sons, before a joint venture was entered into with Bai Shan Lin. The dense area has been proving a problem for the logging company because of an absence of roads. Several roads are now being cut through the area which is filled with especially prime species like Purpleheart, which is in high demand in overseas markets.
Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc. were two companies which have been under scrutiny
for their logging activities. With Vaitarna’s promised processing facilities still to come on stream, there have been questions whether the business proposals they tabled when entering the local forestry sector were a mere sham and whether the true intentions were really logging.
Several countries around the world and even in some parts of China have banned log exports.
GFC said Monday that most logging companies find it financially better to export, as it would not make economic sense to set up processing facilities here for some of the species being concentrated on.
The situation with especially Bai Shan Lin is a particularly touchy one for the administration.
Guyana has been taking significant loans for infrastructural works from China and to a lesser extent India. The Chinese presence here has been growing significantly to the point where the landscape of Georgetown’s prime shopping areas has changed to include a number of Asian stores.
While the Ministry of Home Affairs has been mum on the number of work permits it has been issuing in the last few years, it is a public “secret” that a significant number of them have been entering Guyana.
In the Upper Berbice River area, at Kwakwani, the presence of the Chinese, and there are quite a number of them, have been viewed as a blessing by residents there involved in the logging industry. Never before has there been an assured market as there is currently.
Bai Shan Lin has even been allowed to lend its equipment to small operators from Kwakwani and other areas to help harvest the logs. Bai Shan Lin also has arrangements in place to move the logs, all reducing headaches that not so long ago plagued the Upper Berbice loggers.
A few years ago, GFC was not even allowing equipment owned by others to operate in a third party forestry concession. That has all changed now.
On the flip side, there are concerns that with the volume of equipment in the area, it will only be a matter of time before the area is totally harvested.
However, GFC has refuted these claims, saying Monday that it has robust tracking systems and in any case, the concessions across Guyana are not being utilized to the maximum or as the agency puts it, the annual harvesting is below the maximum annual allowable cut.
The reporting by the private media, including Kaieteur News and Stabroek News, has seen Government, and its regulatory arm, GFC, pulling out the stops to defend Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna.
Several full-page advertisements to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, You Tube videos, radio and TV interviews as well, mobilizing support for the Chinese company, were used to counter the reports by the two independent newspapers which have been accused of being anti-investment.
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