Oct 16, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – This is too small a country, with less than a million people, for its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be showered with over 2,500 complaints (KN October 14). It is also too big a place, with far outlying areas, to be overseen with the regularity, energy, and quality needed. Still, those many complaints have been lodged with the local EPA, and impacted citizens are looking for results.
The residential complaints range from air to noise pollution. Though we saw it fit to categorise as “nuisance”, the level of noise in some neighbourhoods escalates it to that of pollution, with many negative effects. The noise pollution is laid mainly at the foot of such business establishments as bars and restaurants, while air pollution is claimed to be caused by dust and odours generated by spray painting, auto bodywork, and furniture workshops. Given the nature of those different businesses, there has to be significant noise eruptions and pollution emerging daily also. When that is linked to the sight of growing numbers of such business entities, mainly small and either roadside or ‘bottom-house’, it is surprising that more such pollution complaints have not been received. Further, when allowance is made for pollution related to garbage dumping, it is clear that Guyana’s EPA has its hands full with complaints that are largely local in origin. Meaning, the people and entities responsible for the pollutions are Guyanese. This does not give even them a free pass, since they must comply with what the rules and regulations dictate.
To this end, a senior officer at the EPA said: “We need partnerships with other agencies to resolve these complaints and we have recognised over the past year that there are some agencies out there that have a mandate or jurisdiction to respond to these complaints.” We think that is well said, and with specific application to the EPA’s recognition and admission that partnership and consultation and collaboration all go hand-in-glove to address, and resolve matters that trouble, if not plague, residents in near and distant communities. Now, we take this to another level and a broader plain using the same EPA’s sensible position
Other residents, all concerned citizens, are on record with their anxieties and fears about bigger pollution concerns. Without in any way minimising those 2,500 plus pollution complaints from agitated neighbourhoods, there are Guyanese on the East Bank and East Coast of Demerara that are alarmed at announcements of factories that are springing up to take advantage of various business opportunities and activities related to the oil sector. For sure, these are not routine facilities, but ones that may be involved in the storage of materials considered hazardous.
We will be blunt about this: whenever that word ‘hazardous’ comes into the mix, such factories, plants, facilities, projects (or whatever name they go under) must not be anywhere near residential neighbourhoods. When we speak of residential neighbourhoods, we at this paper are not thinking of high-end or gated communities alone, but across the board. They must be located as far away as possible from our neighbourhoods where people live, and of that there should be little discussion or disagreement. After all, and with reason, which one of us, would look with appreciation at a chemical storage bond in the middle, or in the vicinity, of our place of abode? It matters not, whether we are upwind or at the other end of the area, we just don’t want any such thing around us. We ask with similar fairness (and fearlessness) whether the good Guyanese who make Pradoville their home would be welcoming to such an arrival in their midst. We think not.
But we do think and like what the EPA said about partnering with other agencies. We recommend extending that partnering to those Guyanese in society who do not take kindly to facilities considered hazardous. Consultations are a start, but only if they mean something. Partnering is welcomed, but only if there is sincerity. Engaging concerned Guyanese is good, but only if proceedings are not rubberstamped against them. The EPA can do good work, but only if it is genuine and not the joke into which it has been made.
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