Guyana records deforestation rate of over 9000 hectares for 2018

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  • mining dominates as main driver of deforestation

A key report recently released by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has shown that for last year, mining was the main driver of Guyana’s deforestation rate of 0.051 per cent or 9,227.1 hectares.

This is according to the Monitoring Reporting and Verification System (MRVS) Year Eight interim report, as part of the Guyana Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) programme.

The report covers January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018, with data being collected using satellite imagery of Guyana’s forests. According to the report, last year’s deforestation rate was slightly higher than in 2017, which was 0.049 per cent. According to the report, the data was also independently verified.

“The 2017 rate was the lowest of all annual periods from 2010 to present. As with previous assessments, the GFC’s deforestation area has been verified by the Durham University (DU) team using a statistically representative independent sample. The area of deforestation reported by DU closely aligns with the values reported by the GFC,” the report states.

“The main deforestation driver for the current forest year reported is mining [sites], which accounts for 75 per cent of the deforestation in this period. The majority, 78 per cent, of the deforestation is observed in the State Forest Area. The temporal analysis of forest changes post-1990 indicates that most of the change is clustered around existing road infrastructure and navigable rivers.”

To give the rate of deforestation some context, Guyana has a total land area of 21.1 million hectares. As of 2009, the year the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) was launched to help capitalise on the carbon credits Guyana was earning, there were 18.5 million hectares of forest.

Other than mining, other responsible sectors for the deforestation rate include settlements and infrastructure. Mining’s nearest competitor is also related to the sector, with the instalment of mining infrastructure accounting for 687.6 hectares of lost forest.

Forest fires, according to the report, accounted for 661.2 hectares of damage to Guyana’s forests, while clearing trees for agricultural purposes accounted for 511.8 hectares. Forestry activities, which had just a 1.7 per cent bite of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of the middle of 2019, accounted for 355.9 hectares.

“The findings of this assessment assist to design REDD+ activities that aim to maintain forest cover while enabling continued sustainable development and improved livelihoods for Guyanese. The purpose of the MRVS is to track at a national-level forest change of deforestation and degradation, by change driver,” the report states.

“Degradation estimates for mining and infrastructure are computed using new methods developed over the years 2018 and 2019, as a part of moving towards a more comprehensive yet sustainable MRVS implementation post-2020,” the report also explained.

Guyana has always had a track record of low deforestation rates, a fact that led to the setting up of a GRIF fund (Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund) under the previous Government. A study done by GFC back in 2011 had found that the deforestation rates were a mere 0.06 per cent from 2009 to 2010.

While this minuscule deforestation rate was attributed primarily to mining activities, it has always been acknowledged that mining is a crucial part of Guyana’s economy; representing 21 per cent of the GDP in 2012.

As of the middle of 2019, mining accounted for 9.4 per cent of the GDP. Only the wholesale and retail trade, which is a service and not a productive sector, scored higher with a 13.4 per cent share.

For 2018, total gold declarations from all sources amounted to 613,073 ounces, which was 6.22 per cent lower than the figures from 2017. Additionally, the foreign exchange value of exports processed on behalf of dealers and the GGB came up to US$443,961,666.

It is not just the foreign revenue that mining earns. The mining sector is also a significant source of employment, providing direct and indirect employment for thousands of Guyanese who work as small and medium scale miners or are employed by the large foreign-owned mining companies.