Guyana is the largest state in the Caribbean Community. Its forests cover more than 85 per cent of its land mass. It is a ‘net carbon sink,’ that is, its forests sequester more carbon that the country’s human activity generates.
Guyana’s economy, despite this, is a heavily dependent on agriculture and on the extractive sectors – bauxite, gold, diamond, timber. The high dependence on agriculture and exhaustible natural resources places Guyana’s natural assets at risk of erosion.
Guyana therefore needs a sustainable model of resource exploitation and extraction in order to check the depletion of its natural assets so that these assets will also be available to future generations. A ‘green’ economy is necessary to ensure the sustainable management of its natural resources and assets.
A ‘green’ economy is also needed to wean this country off of its addiction to fossil fuels. The importation of these fuels exacts a heavy burden on the economy. Guyana, in 2012, expended the equivalent of 24% of its Gross Domestic Product on petroleum-based products.
Guyana’s Green Development Strategy will be developed as a template for the ‘greening” of Guyana. Guyana will have ‘green’ economy. We will transition our economy rapidly towards renewable, clean and cheaper sources of energy. We will craft a comprehensive Coastal Zone Management Plan to protect human habitation, our coastal economic sectors and coastal ecosystems. We will create ‘green’ enterprises and jobs and we will inculcate ‘green’ education in our schools. Guyana’s ‘green’ development strategy will rest on four pillars:
• Energy: Guyana will rapidly accelerate the transition towards renewable sources of energy as part of its ‘green’ development thrust. Guyana will invest in solar, wind, hydro and biomass sources of energy over the next five years. Guyana has:
– the potential for generating hydro-electricity with more than one hundred sites which are suitable for the development of hydro-electric power stations;
– the potential for the development of wind energy from wind farms along the 425 km long coastline.
– the potential for Solar energy since irradiation levels are high, making it ideal for the establishment of industrial scale solar farms;
– The potential for producing energy from bagasse and other sources of biomass with potential for energy generation.
• Environmental security: More than 80 per cent of Guyana’s population resides on the coastland and most of its agriculture, including all of its sugar production and almost all of its rice production, are grown on the coastland. Guyana’s fishing catch is, mainly, sold, processed, consumed or exported from the coastal belt.
Guyana’s coastal plain is flat and below sea level making it prone to sea defence breaches, flooding and intrusion of salt water into residential and agricultural communities. The sea defence protecting the coastline is fragile. It requires repair in many areas.
Drainage and irrigation systems in many areas are in need of repair. Coastal zone management, therefore, is essential to our economic survival. We will, as part of the Green Development Strategy, develop a comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and maintenance of our coastal sea defence, drainage and irrigation systems.
A ‘green’ economy must be a clean economy. Our communities must evince cleanliness and healthiness and free of litter. Our waterways must be protected from pollution. Municipal and neighbourhood councils must have solid waste disposal plans.
Citizens must enjoy the good life in a safe and clean environment. We will, therefore, rigidly enforce laws against littering. We will promote the use of bio-degradable packaging materials. The Regional, Municipal and Neighbourhood Councils must ensure that there are adequate, properly managed and safe solid-waste dumpsites and sewage processing facilities in every region.
• Ecological services: Guyana’s forests provide ecological and environmental services to humanity. Guyana, in recognition of its responsibility to contribute to the global efforts to combat climate change, signed the Paris Agreement on April 22, 2016 at the United Nations in New York.
Guyana committed then to improve its timber management, to maintain a high level of timber legality and to increase value-added production in the timber sector as a means of ensuring that our forests make an effective response to climate change while yielding sustainable economic benefits for our country.
Guyana’s Protected Areas will also make its contribution to environmental conservation. Protected Areas will be established in every Region of our country. We will place an additional two million hectares of land and waterways under conservation. Ecological parks and natural reserves will also be established to protect and preserve our natural habitats, our flora and our fauna.
• Enterprise and employment: Green development is good for business. Guyana’s green revolution will spawn a wide range of business and employment opportunities. Electric cars, hybrid vehicles, energy-saving devices, solar home systems, organic health foods, recycling plants, environmentally-friendly buildings, ‘green’ construction materials, bio-degradable packaging materials, sustainable agriculture and ‘green’ financing options are just some of the areas around which new enterprises and jobs will be created.
Guyana must move onto the crest of a green wave. Green jobs are the next wave of job-creation. A ‘green’ economy will, of necessity demand a higher level of skilled personnel. The education system, therefore, must be in a position to supply the trained personnel needed by a ‘green’ economy.
The business community, financial sector, entrepreneurs and young people are pivotal to the success of our strategy to create a green economy. A green economy:
– represents an investment opportunity for our business community;
– represents an emerging target market for our financial sector that will spur entrepreneurial activity; and
– creates knowledge-based jobs for the graduates of our schools and universities;
– will ensure a clean and healthy environment for households and families;
– will reduce our fuel import bill allow the economy to harness its underutilized resources – sun, water, wind and biomass.
The good life is about promoting sustained economic growth. The good life is for this generation and for future generations. The good life, therefore, requires a commitment to sustainable development, something that is mandated by our Constitution which states:
In the interests of the present and future generations, the State will protect and make rational use of its lands, mineral and water resources, as well as its fauna and flora, and will take all appropriate measures to ensure and improve the environment.
The good life is therefore compatible with concern for sustainable development and consideration for the environment
‘Green’ solutions are needed to address the challenges and threats facing the country, particularly those caused by climate change such as improved coastal zone management, flooding, drought, environmental degradation, deforestation, conservation of protected areas and waterways and the provision of environmental
A ‘green’ economy is good for Guyana. It will lead us to the good life. There is no better vision of the next 50 years of Guyana’s growth than to usher in a green economy.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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