[www.inewsguyana.com] – Amerindian leaders of communities along the Rewa and Essequibo Rivers in Region Nine are demanding to know the nature, location and scale of proposed logging concessions for Chinese company Bai Shan Lin.
And as such, they want the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) to “cease forthwith” any further processing of the Bai Shan Lin permit.
Their demand is contained in a letter sent to the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) following a meeting in the village of Maruranau.
On Monday, Commissioner of Forests, James Singh confirmed that Bai Shan Lin has two state forest permits, one of which is located in Region Nine. But the 17 communities of South Central and Deep South Rupununi claim they were not informed of the move.
From the little information they have received, the village leaders said they are concerned that the proposed concession may affect their traditional lands and natural resources within proposed land title extension areas for the Wapishan people.
“If the said concession does indeed affect our traditional lands and extension areas, we consider that the GFC and other relevant agencies of the government are in direct breach of our rights as protected under the constitution of Guyana, other applicable national laws and related international treaties ratified by our country,” the leaders state in their July 7 letter to the GFC.
The proposed concession area in Region Nine spans over 150, 000 hectares. The Amerindian communities are demanding that the Forestry Commission meet with them and share all maps and other relevant information pertaining to the proposed concession.
“We’ve heard through the grapevine that Bai Shan Lin is coming in but we don’t know exactly where,” said Tony James, a former chief of the village of Aishalton, and now Vice President of the Amerindian People’s Association (APA).
Further, the leaders are calling on the GFC to take immediate steps to ensure “full respect to our lands and free, prior and informed consent in line with Guyana’s international obligation and commitments to uphold indigenous people’s rights under the Low Carbon Development Strategy.”
“The forest is our kitchen, it is our supermarket, it is our university, our playground, our school…it is our hospital as well,” said James.
“So where are we going to go?”
According to the GFC, permits are issued for period of three years and during that time the company has to do an environmental and social impact assessment, along with a forest inventory and business plan.
Once these are considered favourably, it is then than a company is issued with a Timber Sales Agreement that allows it to begin logging operations.