Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Raphael Trotman, said the two million hectares of land set aside by government is only for conservation and will do no harm to any economic activity in the country.
He was responding to criticisms from the Opposition in particular, which opined that the use of the land could affect both the economy and the country’s forest.
Former President and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had recently criticised the government, saying that the productive sector was likely to suffer tremendously now that government plans to conserve the additional forest lands. He said that it was at the recent signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change that Guyana pledged to put two million hectares of forest under conservation.
However, at a recent meeting with the media, Trotman said that was not the case: “This is a commitment that Guyana did not make for the first time in Paris. In fact, it comes out of a commitment in 1994 at the US convention in Biodiversity, where it decided to set aside 70 per cent of state lands for conservation.”
He said there is a combination of work to be done between the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission and the Guyana Forestry Commission, before the more than 2 million hectares become available. This, he said, will be used for the preservation of pristine places where the country’s biodiversity could thrive.
He stressed that persons are aware that they would not be allowed to mine in the area identified. The lands are below the fourth parallel going towards the Brazilian border, he informed.
Jagdeo had strongly criticised the move and berated government for not having a serious strategy aimed at achieving a green economy. He contended that those currently responsible for the natural resources sector appeared to be “incompetent about the dynamics of the sector, given the plans, or lack of, made to fight against climate change.”
He had said that Guyana’s deforestation rate has remained one of the lowest in the world, around 0.065 per cent.
He said with a deforestation rate that low, there really was no need to conserve more of the country’s forest, which could otherwise be utilised in an environmentally friendly way to boost production and ultimately generate revenue for the country and its people:
“How are they going to get that done? It could mean they are going to take back lands from the people who have forest leases, from miners, and even if they don’t, that would be two million hectares more of our land that we can’t bring into productive use.”
Jagdeo contended that this commitment was silly also because even developed countries were not making these pledges. He also criticised the commitment made to move Guyana to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025:
“So in nine years’ time, we’re supposed to believe that this country will use 100 per cent renewable energy. It is impossible to say that every vehicle, every power plant…will start using renewable energy.”
Jagdeo posited that with the rate at which government was going, Guyana’s reputation on the international scene with regard to its climate change efforts would soon be destroyed.
Recently, President David Granger had explained that the allocation of more land to the protected area system would ensure that these natural resources are used sustainably and preserved for future generations, and was part and parcel of the plan to promote a green economy.