Kaieteur News – It appears as though Guyanese people have become more interested today in protecting the environment and maintaining biodiversity, than at any time in their history. This interest has been stimulated by the discovery of sizable deposits of oil, the growing production of crude and the threats to the environment which oil production poses. Accordingly, when the International Day for Biodiversity was commemorated in the last week of May, many began to seriously focus on the theme of the commemoration: “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity”. This theme has been a wakeup call for those countries which have been dilatory in environmental protection. To Guyana, it has been much more of a call to inspire greater effort in the protection of biodiversity and trying to repair those areas of biodiversity which have been impaired.
What is Biodiversity? Most Guyanese have a partial or rough idea of what it means, but they need to have a slightly more precise understanding of what it is to really grasp its full importance. Biodiversity is the extraordinary diversity of life on earth and even the soil itself. It ranges from genes to species and ecosystems which sustain all living things, whether microbes, plants, or animals or humans. Ecosystems provide life sustaining services to the species, including the humans that inhabit them.
This leads to the long accepted philosophical position that all life is interdependent since all living beings share the one life. In all ancient cultures this truth of the environment was fully understood. In Hinduism, for example, the earth – the soil which is a living organism and all life which it sustains – is deified as Mother Earth or Dharti Mata and her icon is found in all Hindu temples. The Elizabethan poet John Donne expresses the same truth regarding Human beings: “Don’t ask ‘For whom the (church) bells toll?’ It tolls for thee”.
These ancient truths of the importance of the environment and biodiversity to human survival is only now being understood by modern man who now realises that the polluted and unclean water and air, deteriorating fertility of soils, food shortages and famines, unpredictable and disastrous climate change have been the result of human activities such as deforestation, overfishing, pollution of air and water by industrial and agricultural and mining activity.
Consciousness of the danger to human survival and the quality of life caused by indiscriminate harming of the environment and biodiversity has led to the emergence of several international organizations which try to mobilize the nations of the world to act together to try and protect the environment and biodiversity. This is done by various methods including training, financial assistance, assisting countries to establish or upgrade environmental departments, cooperating in unified action and so on. Such organizations would include Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); Conference of Parties (COP); and Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Most countries in the world are now supportive of these institutions and Guyana stands out among them.
Most of the destruction of the environmental and biological diversity of the world was caused by the developed countries, when two or three centuries ago, they embarked on their industrial and agricultural revolutions. When these countries required further natural resources they began to exploit the underdeveloped world, resulting in environmental harm to them. Guyana is among the countries working to reverse and repair these negative trends in both individual countries and worldwide.
In addition to establishing an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) several years ago, Guyana is now updating its National Biodiversity and Action Plan (NBSAP). UNDP is assisting in this task by providing technical and financial support. The NBSAP will mirror the goals of the major international organizations such as GBF and place Guyana in the loop of the most modern and advanced activity for environmental and biodiversity protection.
Guyana has already declared 17% of its land surface as an area of Environmental Protection and this includes the Iwokrama Rainforest Reserve; Kaieteur National Park; Shell Beach Protected Area; Kanuku Mountains Protected Area; and Konashen Amerindian Protected Area.
Then, there is the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which is concerned with Climate Change and anti-pollution. The Strategy has integrated biodiversity considerations within its planning and activity. The LCDS has been able to earn a generous income from which Amerindian communities have benefited. The Guyana LCDS has pioneered a model which other countries are now using.
The Guyana Forestry Commission is responsible for the Sustainable Forestry and Biodiversity Programe. The Commission sets the criteria for forest sector operators who have to demonstrate their commitment to maintaining, conserving and enhancing Biodiversity at landscape, ecosystems, species and genetic levels. It is underscored that operators have to protect threatened and endangered species and cooperate in the prohibition of the exploitation of threatened species for commercial purpose. This dovetails with the responsibilities of the Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission (GWCM), which works to stamp out illegal wildlife trafficking and help to preserve Biodiversity.
Finally, there are two important projects in which Guyana is involved to which it is committed: Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Mining (MBIM) which enhances the management of small-scale gold mining with responsible mining techniques such as reducing mercury contamination; and the Prevention of Marine Litter in the Caribbean Sea (PROMAR), which aims to reduce the flow of plastic waste into the marine environment from land or coastal areas. Though Guyana has an Atlantic and not a Caribbean Sea littoral, Guyana’s participation as a “Caribbean territory” is well understood. Such plastic waste derived mostly from packaging material, sicken and kill seabirds, whales, fish and turtles which unsuspectingly eat them.
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