May 28, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – More than a dozen residents of Canal Number One, West Bank Demerara have attached their signatures in a letter addressed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing a breach to their right of prior consultation for the proposed Gas-to-Energy pipeline, to be constructed by ExxonMobil in partnership with the Guyana Government.
In the letter dated May 26, 2022 to the Executive Director of the regulatory agency, Mr. Kemraj Parsram, the citizens said they were never consulted, and called for the suspension of the 60-days period, which was opened to allow persons with concerns to register same with the EPA.
“We the residents of Canal Number One, an area through which the proposed pipeline runs, were not consulted at any time before the submissions of the EIA and EIS for the Gas-to-Energy project. This is a fundamental breach of our rights and those under (the) Environmental Protections Act s.11 (9) along with a breach of the principles of internationally recognized consultation practices,” the letter detailed.
About 18 signatures were attached to the correspondence. The law states at Section 11(9) “During the course of the environmental impact assessment, the developer and the person carrying out the environmental impact assessment shall (a) consult members of the public, interested bodies and organizations; (b) provide to members of the public on request, and at no more than the reasonable cost of photocopying, copies of information obtained for the purpose of the environmental impact assessment”.
The EIA submitted by the Environmental Resources Management (ERM) for the Wales Gas-to-Energy project, has signaled that some land owners in Crane, Canal Number One and Canal Number Two, in Region Three may not be allowed to grow crops or develop new structures that may interfere with the pipeline to be laid by Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL).
The document said that one residential property within the planned onshore pipeline route about 175 meters south of the shore crossing may have to relocate, along with four other dwellings located within 500 meters of the heavy haul road and temporary materials offloading facility (MOF).
EEPGL was keen to note that the government is responsible for Project-related land acquisition but the company will support the administration in developing and implementing a ‘Resettlement and Livelihood Restoration Strategy’ aligned with “international standards”.
When it comes to land use, the oil company explained that the project may result in a change of land ownership or tenure for all or part of a property, parcel, or land use area. It explained that a 12.2 meter wide permanent right of way (ROW) will be established to aid in operation and maintenance of the onshore pipeline.
As such, any land that falls within the permanent ROW will be frozen. The document did not say how many homes will be affected by this ROW. According to the document, “Land use in the permanent RoW will be restricted and growing crops or construction of any structures will not be permitted in the permanent RoW. The legal formation of the RoW may result in changes to existing private property boundaries and/or the details of licences, leases, permits, or other tenures related to the use of affected public lands.”
Moreover, the EIA cautions that the project to be built at Wales can result in long-term hardships for farmers within close proximity to the plant and pipeline, as impacts to their agricultural products could extend beyond the construction phase to the operations stage of the facility. This impact will be relevant to rice fields, north and south of Crane, West Minister/ Lust-en-Rust rice fields and pineapple and mixed crops in the northern part of Canal Number Two and the south and northern half of Canal Number One.
In this regard, one resident and Attorney-at-Law Elizabeth Hughes told the EPA that the entire EIA process should be scrapped and redone. She gave her comments on the matter at a consultation hosted on May 11, last.
According to her, “What we can do is recall the EIA and fix the fact that, I am assuming that we (residents in the Area of Influence) are primary stakeholders, the people who live next to the pipeline so recall it and have meetings with us because we are in the Area of Influence (AOI)…but yet we were never engaged.”
The resident reasoned that while it is established that the Consultant has conducted meetings, these were never done with those who are expected to be impacted, but rather State agencies.
In its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Exxon’s consultant noted that robust public consultations were done for the developer to not only gather information to inform the study, but also to understand stakeholder concerns. However, the document states that engagements were held with the government and agencies related to the offshore activities while surveys of businesses and households within and around the direct area of influence (AOI) were conducted.
The Consultant explained that 11 in-person public scoping consultations took place in Regions One to Six, and two virtual public scoping consultation meetings. In addition, 36 representatives from the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) in Region Three were engaged while 150 businesses in Regions Three and Four were surveyed along with 370 individuals in Region Three during the 2021 socioeconomic household surveys, including 122 individuals categorised as members of vulnerable groups.
Importantly, in volume three of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the Consultant explained that “key informant stakeholders that have been engaged to date include, but are not limited to: African Culture Development Association, Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors, Big Bird & Sons Fishing Complex (Charity), Bureau of Statistics, Centre for Local Business Development (CLBD), Conservation International (CI), Department of Tourism, Fishing Cooperatives (e.g., Lima Fishermen’s Development Co-op, Georgetown Fishermen’s Co-op Society Ltd., Parika Fishermen’s Development Co-op, etc.), Georgetown-based real estate agents, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha,” and a number of other organisations. It, however, made no mention of engaging communities that will be impacted by the project.
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