Nov 29, 2020 News
Kaieteur News – Ensuring the protection of Guyana’s environment should come as the utmost priority for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but without the requisite and essential equipment to handle the influx of hazardous chemicals from the oil and gas sector, it would be unable to complete that mandate.
Unfortunately, that is the existing situation at EPA as was revealed by former head of the Agency, Dr. Vincent Adams, on a recent edition of Kaieteur Radio’s, ‘Corruption, Governance and Justice,’ hosted by senior journalist Kiana Wilburg.
“If you think we are not going to have environmental issues, you’ve got something else coming because in the industry, there is going to be all kinds of chemicals we have never seen before, never had any experience with and it is all going to hit us,” the environmental expert stated.
That now presents a dangerous challenge for the EPA, Adams reported, as these facilities will be located in central and populated areas and on the river.
He added, “And you know the river is convenient, it is cheap and you have easy access and transportation and that’s where you gonna be vulnerable to spills and the air.”
The EPA according to Dr. Adams currently lacks the basic capacities, such as human resources, to assess simple environmental issues.
A forensic audit of the agency done back in 2015 had discovered that the EPA should have had at least 263 persons employed. However, according to Dr. Adams, at the start of his tenure, only 90 persons were there.
With work overtime, Dr. Adams reported that the number increased to 120 and plans were afoot to boost it to at least 300. Not only that, Dr. Adams noted too, that plans were in the works to procure a state-of-the-art laboratory for the EPA.
However, these plans were cut short after the new People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) regime recently terminated his contract.
But even with those improvements, it still was not enough. Simple measuring equipment to measure pollutants in the air are lacking at the agency, Dr. Adams relayed.
“It is a problem and what used to happen was, we have staff that were very dedicated and they mean well and one of the things that we were doing was, we had some outdated equipment and they were going out taking measurements using those and I said if the equipment is old, I say we put it aside and say we don’t have the equipment,” he continued, adding “When we say that now people laugh at us and say that we are not an EPA. But I prefer for us to not give any data because you are playing with people’s lives because you are gonna say that okay this is safe, but it is the wrong measurement.”
The environmental expert called on the government for adequate funding for the EPA as they are the guardians of Guyana’s environment and play an intricate role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Guyanese.
“There is oil and gas, mining, road construction, etc. everything has to pass through the EPA so we need the resources, if we are going to really be serious about protecting people’s health, safety and the environment. Half of the population is below the age of 25 so what are we gonna give them? They are the ones who are gonna have to survive this,” he said.
Guyana’s response capacity was already tested in a major way after a “Rheduce” chemical spill at the Guyana National Industrial Company (GNIC). That led to the EPA putting a halt on chemicals being stored at the wharf.
A forklift pierced the container holding the chemical that was left at the facility for months after being imported by Schlumberger Guyana. The company later faced a $1 million penalty for the spill.
While the chemical placed no harm on the environment and human life, what was worrying about the incident was the EPA was notified more than nine hours after the spill had occurred.
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