Although air pollution is a “major concern” for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which falls under the Natural Resources Ministry, the entity is not equipped with the necessary tools to test air quality owing to the lack of finances.
In an interview with INews on Wednesday, EPA Executive Director, Dr Vincent Adams complained that the body was unable to function at its full potential, as funding for critical aspects such as capacity building was unavailable.
Speaking on the occasion of World Environment Day, which focuses on air pollution this year, Dr Adams stated: “We are looking at some statistics and the air pollution, I think, it says nine out of ten persons in the entire world is somehow exposed to air pollution. I think one out of every eight deaths occurs from air pollution directly or indirectly.”
But although this is the case, he admitted, the EPA cannot test air quality. “So it’s a major concern and the problem is we do not see what’s in the air; it’s there, but we are not aware of it and that’s why the EPA is so important, because we are supposed to be equipped, even though you can’t see it, it’s to understand what’s out there and to mitigate against any health defects that come to the public,” Dr Adams explained.
He is hoping that the Government considers the Agency in its next budget.
“In my budget that I am going to be proposing for 2020, we are going to be proposing all of that, all of the requirements in the upcoming budget, but this here is really important and as a matter of fact, we have been taking it very, very seriously,” the Director assured.
In addition, he stressed that the staffers of the EPA required training if they were to carry out their duties in a more effective manner, especially now that the natural resources sector is being broadened with oil production.
“We need lots of resources, we need personnel who are trained, but we are not there yet. As a matter of fact, to be very candid or honest with you, we’re not even close to being there, so we’re putting a plan in place and next year’s budget is probably going to be the budget that really identifies all of the gaps,” Dr Adams posited.
In the meantime, he said, the EPA has been conducting gap analysis to identify exactly what materials are needed. The Director referenced the fact that Guyana, with its diverse topography, required special vehicles to visit places such as the interior regions where mining was often conducted.
He explained, “We have on the books currently over… I think it’s like 1200 permits meaning that we’ve got 1200 operations out there that we have permitted to operate, so we are supposed to oversee these things and not only issue permits but to go out there and monitor and make sure they are in compliance with these permits to protect the environment’s health and safety so we need equipment, we need lots of resources, we need personnel who are trained, but we are not there yet.”
The EPA was established by the Environmental Protection Act in 1996. It is tasked with undertaking the necessary measures to manage, conserve, protect, and improve the local environment.
It specifically handles matters such as air quality and noise, freshwater, waste, biological resources, land resources, research and development, ecological and human health risk, education, communication and awareness.