Just as lawyers would speak up when the rule of law is being trampled upon; anti-corruption advocates speak up when there is rampant corruption; women’s right activists speak up when females are taken advantage of and so forth, Christopher Ram thinks that it is time the voices of environmentalists are heard.
Ram recently spoke to Kaieteur News about his concerns for the environment. He said that he is becoming quite worried that not enough is being done to protect Guyana’s environment with oil production on its way.
Ram, who is a lawyer, accountant, columnist and anti-corruption advocate, has been quite vocal on many issues. He said that while he is concerned about the environment, he would not consider himself a specialist. Therefore, he thinks that the persons who have been championing themselves for years as keepers of the environment should step up and speak out, as little is in place to “protect us all.”
Ram said, “Part of the problem for us is that I am not sure which environmentalist we have in this country who could consider him or herself entirely independent and therefore willing to speak.”
He said that there has not been enough coming from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with all the environmental issues that have been ventilated in the media, especially as it relates to the ExxonMobil’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that was submitted to the Agency.
“The people from the EPA should be quite willing to discuss, in an objective way, the matters that are facing us,” said Ram.
These issues are very important, these problems don’t save one person and affect others, it affects all of us, it can destroy all of us, it can consume all of us, if you we not careful.”
Ram continued, “So people like those at Conservation International who ought to be independent, ought to be protecting us and speaking for us. But they seem unfortunately reluctant to speak.
Ram suggested that Guyana may need a Greenpeace chapter.
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over 40 countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Further, Ram noted that the Ministry of Environment is under the wing of Minister of State, Joseph Harmon who is a member of the quintet plus one that has been set up to overlook oil and gas related matters.
“One would hope that he (Harmon) is at least the spokesperson and defender of all things environmental, in every matter pertaining to the production of oil in the country that is discussed in that group. But he has hardly been speaking about the environment publicly.”
Ram said that Advisor to the President Gary Best’s voice should also be heard in the public domain. “I do not know where Rear Admiral Best is on the issue, but he is another that ought to be speaking out. He should also be providing information, offering his own analysis, and submitting himself for questions.”
Further, Ram said that the National Assembly has a role to play in ensuring that there is legislation to protect the environment.
“What are we going to tell our children and grandchildren when the question is asked: what did we do in defence of the environment when fossil fuel became an issue in Guyana? I am not sure we will be proud of ourselves, the debate has hardly been on the environment.”
Ram was in high praise of the Audit Office of Guyana for its announcement that it will hold all players accountable for the environment. He said however that he hopes the Audit Office ensures that it is equipped with the requite skills to perform environmental audits.
“That will be good, because as you know, the Auditor General’s Office is a constitutionally protected office holder and we certainly have to rely on their good judgment and their willingness to confront this issue.”
With ExxonMobil preparing to begin oil production by 2020, Guyana is at risk of suffering from environmental issues like oil spills.
The effects of a recent oil spill in Trinidad, which Trinidadian environmentalists called an “environmental nightmare,” serves as a reminder of the need for Guyana to put stiff measures in place to avoid oil spills and to ensure companies take responsibility if any spill should occur.
However, the EIA that ExxonMobil submitted provides little for the protection of Guyana’s environment. Also, the company does not take full responsibility for the effects of a possible oil spill.
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