Persons involved in illegal practices at Iwokrama Rainforest face $100,000 fine, imprisonment

The Iwokrama Rainforest.

The Iwokrama International Centre is now mulling the use of cameras and drones to manage the protected rainforest, as illegal activities increase within the area.

Persons found guilty of any illegal practices can be fined $100,000 or face imprisonment for a period of one year.

In a statement, the rainforest conservation body indicated that there was a proliferation of single-person operations. These operations appear to use metal detectors and spades.

Discoveries were made of ‘several four-inch dredges and substantive destruction to the forest floor’.

According to the Centre, this act is viewed as persons taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation.

“These activities, the Centre believes, are being perpetuated by individuals taking advantage of the current restrictions and lockdown protocols established to combat the COVID-19 virus. The Centre would like to again remind the public and other stakeholders that these activities are not allowed in the Iwokrama Forest unless the Centre gives express written permission for any of these activities to be undertaken,” the body said.

It added that enough resources have been dispensed on sensitisation sessions and other engagements in the past and in recent times to educate the public on activities which were not permitted.

“We conducted an education and awareness activity so the public should now be well aware of the boundaries of the Iwokrama Forest and permitted activities in the forest. Again, over this last weekend, the Centre’s staff together with teams from the Corps of Wardens under the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) carried out raids in the Iwokrama Forest,” the missive highlighted.

The Centre’s monitoring team works with the regulatory institutions in Guyana – the Natural Resources Corps of Wardens; the GPF; the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC); the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

As such, they have pledged to “continue to undertake regular monitoring and enforcement activities within the environs of the Iwokrama Forest, and the Centre will also be rigidly enforcing the prescribed penalties under the Iwokrama Act and other laws of Guyana to any person(s) found illegally operating in the Iwokrama Forest.”

For now, cameras will be installed in key locations. A drone was also acquired with facial recognition software for remote aerial monitoring. The Centre also plans on establishing a monitoring station to monitor boat traffic.

“The Centre is offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of persons(s) involved in illegal activities in the Iwokrama Forest. The Centre will also be following up on information it received on specific mining operators who we have been told have been working in the Iwokrama Forest. Any arrests will be fully publicised.”

Persons found guilty of any illegal practices can be fined $100,000 or face imprisonment for a period of one year.