Latest update March 20th, 2023 12:59 AM
Feb 28, 2023 News
– Environmentalist flags lack of public consultations, possible non-approval by EPA
Kaieteur News – Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), the subsidiary of oil major, ExxonMobil has embarked on a series of offshore surveys in the Demerara River that can disrupt the habitats of fish, thereby further impacting the livelihoods of fisherfolk in the country.
The Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) in a recent public notice published in the daily newspapers advised that on February 24, 2023, EEPGL will commence a geotechnical and geophysical survey in the vicinity of the Demerara Main Ship Channel and off the West Coast of Demerara in the vicinity of Plantation Best.
According to the Notice, “The survey site is situated approximately 01.05 nautical miles (1.96 kilometers) off the Coast of Guyana, and covers an area of 70.08 square nautical miles (240.40 square kilometers.” The exercise scheduled to wrap up on November 1, 2023. This notice did not indicate the purpose of the surveys. Research done by this newspaper indicates that a geotechnical survey involves testing the physical properties of the soil, to provide recommendations for foundation requirements, excavation stability, drainage and buried concrete design.
It would be apposite to note that the survey process involves drilling several boreholes from which samples are collected and then taken for analysis. A geophysical survey on the other hand involves measuring the physical properties of the seabed and determining the presence of any feature or change in a material composition.
In another notice, MARAD said EEPGL is conducting a ‘Multibeam Hydrographic Survey’ approximately 08.27 nautical miles (15.32 kilometers) off the Coast of Guyana. The site covers an area of 802.44 square nautical miles (2752.30 square kilometers).
The activities commenced on February 23, 2023 and is set to conclude on July 31, 2023.
A Multi-beam survey is done to gather detailed information about the features on the seabed by measuring multiple depths from a single transducer array at high resolution. This process produces is a highly accurate 3D picture of the sea floor.
With eight and five months of work, respectively for the two separate operations, the public has not been engaged neither has the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Permit for the activities. At least none was available on its website on Monday afternoon.
To this end, environmental activist Janette Bulkhan in a letter to this newspaper said she believes the activities are illegal, since it has the potential to affect fish habitats.She outlined in a missive, “The Environmental Protection Agency has an obligation under the EP (Environmental Protection) Act 1996 to require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for such potential disturbance of the populations of fish on which our fishermen depend and which contribute greatly to the protein in the diet of coastlanders.” According to the Environmental Protection Act, each project to be pursued that will affect the environment must be subjected to the approval of the EPA. An application must be made to the EPA, which then triggers the screening process, where officers of the regulatory body assess the likely impacts on the environment and human health.
The decision on whether an EIA is required or not is then published by the regulator which then activates a comments period in which the public can oppose this decision. There was however no such engagement or notices on the part of the EPA.
Bulkhan in her letter explained, “The MARAD notices indicate that these surveys have already started, apparently illegally without EPA authorization and without public consultation. Such activities without authorization also contradict the aspirations of the Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030 (Ocean Economy/Fisheries on pages 33 and 34 of the LCDS).”
She is calling on the government to address the situation urgently.
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