– Conservationists call for more practicality
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
The hostile and challenging environment in the Atlantic Ocean is radically different to the smooth surface of a man-made lake. Nevertheless, ExxonMobil has decided to carry out limited training for oil spill response at Splashmin’s Fun Park on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway as opposed to the areas likely to be affected.
That means that persons are being trained in an unrealistic environment far removed from the one they will actually have to operate in, should there ever be a need to respond to an oil spill.
The Guyana Marine Conservation Society (GMCS), headed by Environmentalist, Annette Arjoon feels that Esso Exploration & Production Guyana Limited (EPGL) should be much more practical in carrying out its responsibilities as regards building capacity to respond to an oil spill.
Arjoon said that she is aware that limited training has been done on a man-made lake. However, she said there is an urgent need to commence training with residents in Region One, namely Mabaruma, the Waini communities of Kachikamo, St John and Lower Waini and Shell Beach.
Arjoon told Kaieteur News that “while some preliminary oil spill response capacity building has taken place on the glasslike surface of the man-made lake at Splashmin’s, the reality and harsh environment of the rugged coastline of Shell Beach is the polar opposite, with rough seas and waves that pitch around large fishing boats like matchsticks during some seasons”.
She said she has had two close calls, personally, “despite the decades of experience of the boat captains at the time.”
As such, Arjoon said that GMCS is seeking the support of EPGL and the Government of Guyana to ensure that there is meaningful consultation, capacity building and deployment of fit for purpose assets in Region One.
Arjoon noted that EPGL’s oil spill model has indicated that Region One will be the most affected in the unfortunate event of an oil spill, which means that it is imperative that there be engagement with the relevant stakeholders in that Region to enable a capable response to any related contingency.
While the training has been done with representatives of the agencies and some NGOs, it is essential to recognize that with the high attrition rate, there is no guarantee that most of the competencies may even be in country if and when needed. Hence training the residents in region one is much more practical, with regards to having the capacity in the area when needed.
She said that the GMCS has found it very important to advocate for the prioritization of the awareness and education of the residents of Region One to the emerging oil and gas industry which has been inadequate so far.
“This will necessitate timely provision of relevant information on the oil and gas industry to these important stakeholders prior to them being engaged, as this is a prerequisite for any consultation to be meaningful. It will also require EPGL to engage the residents of Region One in the requisite capacity-building in oil-spill response and for this to be complimented by mobilization of fit-for-purpose oil-spill equipment and assets in the region.”
Arjoon said that the GMCS is well aware of the reality that noxious chemicals from the oil and gas industry are affecting the health of not only humans, but also the flora and fauna, and marine mammals, which all require a clean environment for their collective existence.
Arjoon said that GMCS is conscious of the great need for preservation and protection of Guyana’s pristine marine environment from the ever-present risk of the new and emerging oil and gas industry, especially the Shell Beach Protected Area, Guyana’s only coastal protected area
“GMCS would like to be assured that EPGL and all other oil companies are committed to not only industry best practice but most importantly to also taking the appropriate measures in accordance with our national laws as well as all relevant International Conventions which the Government of Guyana has acceded to,” Arjoon emphasised.
The Guyana Marine Conservation Society is a non-governmental, charitable, non-profit-making body which conducts biodiversity surveys, research, alternative livelihood programmes and education and awareness.
GMCS since its inception in 2000 has made appropriate conservation and environmental recommendations to governmental agencies, commercial entities and other organizations that may have an impact upon the integrity of the marine environment in Guyana.
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