By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – I am encouraged that, at long last, outdated EPA regulations have been enhanced, and with specific reference to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). For now I withhold any sense of the encouraging as to whether the calibre of Guyanese agents is present at the EPA to make those paper policies and standards come to life, actually mean something. When I use a word such as “calibre” I regret that I do not believe that we have the kind of officers with the needed stomach, the steely intestines, and sturdy knees to stand up to foreign (and local) oil businesses and say: do this, or don’t do anything at all. Do not proceed a single inch more.
I start at the top of the EPA, from where this government mocks the nation with the head in place, and increasingly looking so out of place. I continue down through the line, and there is the mostly discouraging. For it is the same PPP government and its leaders that are so serene in their captive and tricky relationships with Exxon and company that they cannot afford to give the EPA, the kind of people that it urgently needs. To give those people the freedom to take matters on the environment wherever they lead, regardless of whose feet are crushed, be it Exxon’s or secretive PPP leadership, or local businesses given the green light, when all should have been in check, as the rules and regulations (now enhanced) require. It has not been so, and should it continue to be so, which is what I believe, then those improved EPA regulations are not going to make any difference, not worth the paper on which written.
I am encouraged that Guyana’s Head of State, President Irfaan Ali, has responded swiftly and positively to the catastrophic situation in our sister CARICOM nation, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It was good to learn about emergency supplies being rushed out, conversations going on between Guyana’s President and the Prime Minister of the volcano-struck island nation, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. A couple of Guyanese companies, Banks DIH and GAICO Construction and General Services, have also stepped up to offer a helping hand. In addition, “President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), Rafeek Khan, also indicated to the Head of State that the association has secured financial commitments” (KN April 11). I find all this most encouraging, which confirms that we have not lost our deep sense of compassion, especially for neighbours in time of need, and this is a time of dire need for thousands of Vincentians.
But, even as I say all of this about Guyana’s government and private sector, I would be still more encouraged to learn that our government has committed to opening our doors to provide physical welcome and shelter to some Vincentians. It is a small country that is only 18 and 11 miles long and wide respectively, while double-digit thousands are directly impacted by the volcano. They do not have much space to move about and to seek safety, and we can do something tangible about that tightness. While we have already done some good things, I believe that we can really stand out by helping to evacuate and provide safe harbour to a couple hundred Vincentians. It is said that any port is good in a storm. By any calculation, what is happening in St. Vincent is a hard, battering, and dangerous storm of lava and ash. Guyana is sufficiently far away and big enough to offer some solace in this dark hour (literally) to our hapless brothers and sisters in St. Vincent. I think that it would be a manifestation of the truly bighearted and broadminded by President Ali and his government to think along these lines, and then follow through with decisive action, just as was done with the relief supplies and arrangements already made to the burning island. I am sure that such a gesture would be most welcomed. I would be encouraged to hear of it happening.
(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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