Dec 31, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – EIA stands for Economic Impact Assessment, a choking mouthful that is better conveyed through its initials, EIA. A crude attempt at phonetic sounds results in something that comes out and over as EEEEE-Aye-Aaay. However, given what has been happening with EIAs as of recent, the Guyanese colloquialism of ‘hi yahhh’ (even hi yagaah) fits best, as it relays what is happening, and the related concerns that spill into our environment.
The long and short of the EIA story, is that it is being short thrift, as in bypassed and overlooked. We get the impression that EIAs are being disdained, as holding up the works, and simply so much bother over nothing. And about being overly concerned for the welfare of the less endowed. That is, those with less means, less education, less energy, less awareness, and less clout to pressure powerful people and shake things up. After all, it is poorer people being discussed, that are involved and impacted, and they can be counted on to toe the party line when push comes to shove, which means elections.
As we have pointed out at different times in this paper, we keep hearing that when an EIA would make sense, that it is not necessary. Not done or necessary for the facility at Rome in Agricola; or for a storage facility for hazardous materials by the John Fernandes Group at Plantation Fairfield, Mahaicony; and it was only after objections by residents of Peter’s Hall that retreat occurred.
With due regard to the local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that entity seems to have been reduced to a rubberstamp. Just clear the way as quickly as possible and quietly, too, and get the job done with the minimum of bureaucracy and delay. His Excellency, President Ali, did promise something about dismantling onerous regulations. From all indications, he has fulfilled that promise exceedingly well, with watchdog agencies in place reduced to being formality and ceremony. They are quickly developing a reputation for having neither bite nor bark. In other words, minimum regulation is the way to go, and zero regulation is the best of all worlds.
Just don’t tell that to those who are in possible harm’s way. That would be those lowly citizens who could benefit from the results of comprehensive and genuine EIAs. They have great potential to come out on the losing side of this or that plant, be it chemical or otherwise. This is commonsense, and EIAs should be part of standard practice in this society. But we frequently hear that they are not necessary. The questions that we place before a public that should be alarmed is this: who is saying so? That they are not necessary? On what authority and vision?
We have the troubled feeling that this is what sells well with Exxon and affiliates. It could be argued, that it is why President Ali fumbled around the continuing presence of one Dr. Vincent Adams, an outstandingly qualified Guyanese, who have what it takes to be a pit bull for Guyana. Guyanese better understand this quickly and completely: what the Americans want, the Americans get. By extension, what Exxon wants, it gets too, in this weak country with a subservient government, all too willing to kowtow to the whims and will of Exxon and the rest of that Fortune 500 brigade that fall over themselves to get to the fleshpots of Guyana. This is what pleases America.
In Exxon’s eyes, any EPA is unwanted baggage, a presence to be tolerated by studiously ignoring. The company’s fingerprints will never be on any of its dealings with Guyana’s EPA. It is too slick and sophisticated for such amateur hour missteps. But its iron hand around the necks of the President and Vice President leave red and revealing welt marks. No Guyanese should need an interpreter from Foreign Affairs, since locals are smart enough to read the signs.
That is exactly how our political leaders in one government after another have behaved with this oil of ours, and its many downstream and associated by-product businesses. This PPP/C government has made surrender into an art form. It has a head of the EPA, who may be kindly compared to our sentinels in the hours when the moon is up. That is when they go down, as in restful slumber. The snoring of the EPA from the head downwards is being heard increasingly across wider swaths of Guyana: a plant there, a factory there, and whatever else that is unknown at this time, wherever it is likely to provoke the least interest and resistance. Not Bel Air or Section “K” and, God forbid, Pradoville. We have one for the EPA and our fellow Guyanese: how about Pradoville for a chemical plant site? It could be a fine example of leading from the front.
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