Latest update March 27th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 19, 2023 News
…as citizens raise concerns of triple conflict of interest
Kaieteur News – As concerns grow over the appointment of Dr. Mahendar Sharma as Chairman of the Environmental Assessment Board (EAB), he has assured that all decisions made by the three-member body will be fair.
In an invited comment, Dr. Sharma, who heads the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) and serves as a Director of the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) assured, “All decisions of the EAB will be based on the facts in a fair, unbiased manner after a hearing of the parties. All appeals will be carefully reviewed and the statutory responsibilities of the EAB will be discharged in accordance with the EPA Act without fear or favour.”
A member of civil society, Danuta Radzik had written to Dr. Sharma asking that he vacates his post since in addition to his roles at two state agencies, he is also the spouse of Mrs. Nadir Sharma, Director of the Guyana Power and Gas Incorporated, the agency that has applied for an environmental permit for the 300 megawatt power plant to be constructed at Wales.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waived the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the facility in January of this year, but several Guyanese objected to this decision. The EAB, headed by Dr. Sharma will on Wednesday hear their concerns and determine whether the regulator made the right decision to exempt the power plant from a detailed impact assessment.
Given Dr. Sharma’s intimate role in two state agencies and his relation to the Director of the applicant, citizens do not believe he should preside over the hearing.
He however told Kaieteur News, “Following appeals against a decision of the EPA to exempt the construction and Operation of a 300 MW Gas-fired Power Plant for an EIA under Section 11(2) (a) of the Act, the EAB has decided to conduct a public hearing under Section 18 (2) of the Act, to hear the views of the appellants, developer and other key stakeholders.
I wish to assure that I will continue to conduct myself in a professional manner, as I have always done, in any portfolio I undertake.”
According to the Official Gazette dated February 18, 2023 Cabinet approved the appointment of the EAB members for a period of one year, with effect from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023. Dr. Garvin Cummings and Mr. Joslyn McKenzie were appointed members of the Board.
It is apposite to note that while McKenzie functions as the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Dr. Cummings is the Chief Hydrometeorological Officer (CHO).
To this end, Radzik said she lacks confidence in the presently constituted EAB’s ability to hold a fair hearing due to conflicts of interests of EAB Board members and their public duties as government employees.
In her missive to Dr. Sharma that was shared with this newspaper on Friday, Radzik explained, “I am also deeply concerned that you did not refuse the appointment as Chair of the EAB on February 10, 2023, when it was publicly known that an appeal against the EIA waiver for the power plant was before the EAB and as Chair, you would be heading this appeals process.”
She therefore said, “I am calling on you to act ethically to step down and to postpone the power plant hearing until a credible EAB is in place.”
Environmental Activist, Simone Mangal-Joly had also written to President Irfaan Ali, asking that he reconsiders the appointed members of the EAB.
This Board is a mandatory body, required by the Environmental Protection Act in Section 18. According to the legislation at Section 18 (1) “There is hereby established an Environmental Assessment Board, and the Third Schedule shall have effect as to the constitution of the Board and otherwise in relation thereto.”
It tasks the members of this board with the responsibility of conducting hearings into all appeals made by the public, regarding EIAs and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). It also says the Board may recommend whether an EIA should be rejected, amended, or accepted, whether a Permit should be issued by the Agency and what terms and conditions should be included in the Permit.
In summary, this Board plays a critical role in approving projects that may impact the environment. Government projects are also subjected to the scrutiny of this process.
They are being paid while we are being played…your pain is their gain!
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