By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
She is deeply concerned about the preservation of the invaluable ecosystem services and sustainable livelihoods of the indigenous communities in and around the Shell Beach Protected Area. These concerns are the consequence of the known risks associated with the emerging oil and gas industry. As a result, environmentalist Annette Arjoon-Martins is trying to make her voice heard in the midst of crowds dominated by persons more concerned about the possible riches associated with oil production.
Arjoon- Martins said she is “deeply concerned” by the present lack of environmental safeguards and weak and almost nonexistent environmental regulations and legislations specific to the emerging oil and gas industry. She said that while the focus is understandably on the billions of dollars and the economic development that oil, a non-renewable resource can bring about once it is managed sensibly, she is saddened that Guyana’s eco-system services have largely been ignored.
Arjoon-Martins used the opportunity presented at a recent oil and gas forum held by the Private Sector Commission (PSC) to press home the need for more safety measures to be put in place.
Arjoon-Martins noted that the Constitution offers all Guyanese the right to a safe and pure environment.
She detailed that the preamble of the Constitution specifically acknowledges the aspirations of “our young people to live in a safe society, which ensures a healthy environment. Article 25 of the Constitution expressly provides for the protections of our environment while Article 36 speaks about the well being of the nation dependent on the preservation of clean air, fertile soils, pure water and the rich diversity of plants animals and eco systems.”
Arjoon also quoted Article 149 J of the Constitution, which said is her favourite. That article gives each Guyanese the right to an environment that is not harmful to his or her health and wellbeing.
Arjoon-Martins told a room filled with entrepreneurs that “while we all heard this morning about the hundreds of millions and billions of United States dollars that everyone is understandable greatly excited about, remember that oil and gas is not a renewable resource and also remember to touch back on the value of our eco system which is everlasting. If you are to put a value on our eco-system, I think it would far exceed those millions and billions we heard of earlier.”
The environmentalist had alluded in her presentation that in light of the devastating events that are linked to climate change and the reality that fossil fuels are a major contributor, that there should be some consideration for Guyana to be rewarded for keeping some of the oil in the ground. Since under the LCDS the government of Norway had paid Guyana US$50mln annually for keeping its deforestation rate at a minimal, it would not be unreasonable to expect that payments for oil should be much higher.
Kaieteur News has since had an interview with Arjoon-Martins during which she spoke briefly on how oil exploration and production related activities will affect the eco-system.
She said that the movements of many supply vessels will have an impact on the large marine mammals that traverse the marine spaces.
Also, the release of high temperature water from the drilling system will affect the area it is being released into.
Further, Arjoon-Martins explained that each time an oil tanker comes to pick up oil, one million barrels of ballast water will be released into the Atlantic Ocean, which can potentially introduce invasive species which can affect the food chain in the ocean.
Arjoon-Martins noted too that the use of seismic affects the marine mammals that depend on echo location. “We do not know where they will be disposing the hazardous waste which is generated as yet, but wherever it ends up on land there are contamination possibilities so the EPA and other relevant agencies need to be vigilant.”
She alluded to the fact that “you cannot manage what you have not measured”, so it is imperative that this need in the Shell Beach Protected Area be addressed before production commences in 2020 so that there is a baseline established.
An ecosystem includes all of the living things (plants, animals and organisms) in a given area, interacting with each other, also with their non-living environments (weather, earth, sun, soil, climate, atmosphere). Ecosystems are the foundations of the Biosphere and they determine the health of the entire earth system.
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