Indigenous people’s rights will be respected as development advances- Minister Persaud

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Indigenous leaders from Region Nine were assured of Government’s commitment to further develop the lives of hinterland residents when they met with Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud at the St Ignatius Benab on Friday, July 12.

Accompanied by the senior officials of the ministry’s various sub-agencies, Minister Persaud told the more than 50 toshaos and village representatives that the workshop was aimed at informing residents about the developments earmarked for Region Nine, and the need to work together to take their communities forward along the path of sustainable development especially as it relates to mining and natural resources.

Minister Persaud said Region Nine presents, “A unique model as a region with diverse resources and a blend of conservation areas that allow us to have an opportunity to show how we can use a community with two protected areas to further develop it with the full involvement of all stakeholders”.

He stressed that government will build on issues of concern raised by indigenous residents as they craft developmental policies. He noted that issues such as the fate of the Iwokrama Conservation Project have been noted, and informed participants that government has already spent over US$900,000 (close to G$200M) to ensure its continued operation, “This alone, is one clear indication that government is committed to the project”.

The concerns of Aishalton and Marudi Mountain residents about mining in their community have also been noted and will be addressed in a timely manner, the minister further added.

Among the developments that will bring about massive changes in the lives of residents, Minister Persaud said, is the all weather road from Lethem to Linden, which will be constructed with technical and financial assistance from neighbouring Brazil. Development must always be in keeping with the expectations of the communities, government and other stakeholders, taking into consideration the environmental and economic needs, the minister reminded attendees.

During the interactive sessions, residents were informed that government is cognisant of the conflict in land usage that can potentially occur, hence the formation of the Land Use Policy Document, which will be used to guide land development throughout Guyana.

Minister Persaud also informed attendees, that government has moved towards having indigenous representatives on all of the boards of his ministry’s sub-agencies. This move is to ensure that there is broad -based representation and that concerns of the various indigenous communities could be taken into account during the decision- making process, Minister Persaud said.

The minister also spoke of increased inter- agency collaboration as a means to preventing sometimes conflicting proposals for development of some areas. “Sometimes, several agencies are looking at the same area, but seeing different things. These things may come into conflict when utilising it,” Minister Persaud noted.

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