Apr 20, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
If one wants to open and operate a small sawmill, that person is required to carry out an Environmental
Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) within the intended area of operation.
However, BaiShanLin, the largest logging company in Guyana which has shipped out way over US$8M worth of logs is yet to conduct such a study.
Despite all the logging and exportation, BaiShanLin does not have an actual licence to export logs. What the company had was a State Forest Exploration Permit (SFEP) which expired last year and is pending renewal.
As part of its agreement for the grant of the SFEP, BaiShanLin was required to do a number of things including to carry out an ESIA before any extraction could begin. It was also to prepare a business plan and do a forest inventory.
However, the forensic audit report into the operations of Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) highlighted the fact that BaiShanLin is yet to honor any of those obligations.
The auditor, Anand Goolsarran, reported, “It was discovered that at the expiration of the SFEP 01/2011, on November 2014, the company did not honour its obligations.
BaiShanLin contended that it faced a number of constraints, including passing through eight concessions and the need to repair/upgrade roads; and that it had since been able to access the area.
As a result, on October 1, 2014, BaiShanLin requested an extension of one year to fulfill these obligations under SFEP 01/2011 as well as to set up the wood processing facility.”
Kaieteur News has been able to confirm that as of yesterday, no ESIA has been handed in. Nevertheless the new government, under the stewardship of Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, is looking to foster even more relations with BaiShanLin.
The operations of BaiShanLin can, and has been proven to have significant negative impact on the environment.
In June 2014 BaiShanLin submitted an application to the EPA seeking environmental authorization to undertake large scale logging and sawmilling.
According to a published public notice, 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, timber extraction and transportation 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, it asked BaiShanLin to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment.
On Redd-monitor.org, it was stated that in November 2012, Chu Wenze, the Chairman of Chinese logging company BaiShanLin, 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.
Former Region Ten Chairman, Sharma Solomon, had on many occasions raised concerns about the impact of BaiShanLin’s operation in the region, particularly Region Ten.
BaiShanLin was in Guyana since 2006. In 2014—eight years later—Solomon said, “(Bai Shan Lin is) far advanced in (its) operations and it has still not done an ESIA to see what impact it would have on the people in the region.”
“We have always expressed concerns about BaiShanLin’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. It was only when the people threatened to shut down the company that any action was taken.
“The company never did well for social corporate responsibility,” said Solomon.
The Environmental Community Health Organisation (ECHO) staged several protest against BaiShanLin. Concerns were grounded in the fact that the company appeared to be posing environmental risks to Guyana with its “exploitive logging activities.”
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