Dec 07, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently found its voice to speak of documents enshrining policies and procedures, and how well such positions this most pivotal of agencies. As locals find out, time and again and to their regret, talk is cheap and only one side of the story, because what is on paper has its uses as cosmetics and for bathrooms, so much is attached to it. We say this because when reality has to be faced, there is this vast yawning gap between reality, and sweet talk and what is embedded in comforting documents.
We think that it is better to let our front-page caption tell the sum of the story: “Six years after oil discovery…EPA to now procure modern instruments to monitor pollution impacts” (KN December 1). Six years is a long time, and there is enough blame to pass around for this shabby situation to have been allowed to go on for so long. There was the previous Coalition Government at the helm for most of those six years, and now, there has been the PPP Government in charge for almost a year and a half, and this is when our EPA is preparing to put itself in the driver’s seat to fulfill one of its prime responsibilities.
For if the nation’s EPA was forced to operate with antiquated equipment, meaning without modern instruments, then there is only so much that its officers can stand over and test and watch, and then report with confidence that this is what is reliable, as state of the art instruments record that they are. In essence, they cannot do their job with any decent authority, since they lack the required tools, and are left to operate in the dark. Truth be told, whatever instruments they had, always left them falling short, as to accuracy and dependability. It is a situation tailor-made for savvy foreign oil powers to make rings around Guyanese, and question anything and everything that they dare to share regarding pollution impacts.
So, if the EPA does not have the kinds of modern instruments needed, then there is not much that it can offer to protect us, be it our environment, individual and/or community health. In this instance, we refrain from putting any responsibility on the management of the EPA for the ugly state of affairs with modern instruments. Though it doesn’t do much to undo the deficiencies of the last six years, there has to be some accountability for what is so basic in the work of any halfway decent EPA. We put this at the feet of the prior Coalition Government and today’s successor, the PPP Government.
A motor vehicle cannot operate with fuel, or a fishing fleet without nets, which is as fundamental as things can be, and requires no one to be a brain surgeon. So, for any government of substance to preside over an EPA without modern instruments to monitor pollution impacts can be summed up to be nothing else but a cardinal failure.
For sure, the previous government was trying to learn and always behind the 8-ball, while it struggled to put its arms around the major significances (and obligations) of oil discoveries. It always seemed to be lacking the tools and know-how needed, which compelled it to play catch-up with much ground to cover. It is the way of most poor Third World societies suddenly, almost overnight, overwhelmed by one massive oil discovery after another. The kinds of people and tools demanded were not prioritised with speed and wisdom. Thus, the EPA languished silently, while Exxon made hay, as the sun shone on the company.
The PPP Government took the reins, and decided it (or as part of its forced elections bargains) had to play ball with Exxon. Thus, the EPA has been reduced to more of a laughingstock, than a body to be taken seriously, if not feared. Troubling people were removed, helpful parrots presented, and procedures came at sluggish speeds. Meanwhile, resources such as expert help, and quality tools and instruments, were all left lagging. Guyanese got pretty speeches and camouflaging PPP Government practices, but little by way of bolts and nuts, or hammers to get the job done.
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