Mainstreaming Biodiversity Project launched

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On February 25, 2021, the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Finance signed a Letter of Agreement (LoA) with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) clearing the way for the implementation for the Biodiversity Mainstreaming Project “Strengthening the enabling framework for biodiversity mainstreaming and mercury reduction in small-scale gold mining operations.” This project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to the tune of 4.5 million USD for 84 months, and will be implemented within two mining districts within Guyana specifically in the communities of Mahdia/Konawaru area, Region 08 and Puruni, Region 07.

The implementation and execution of this project would also see parallel co-financing coming from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Ministry of Amerindian Affairs (MoA), Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) to the tune of 29.6 million USD. 

The launch which took place on July 01, 2021, in the boardroom of the EPA and virtually, saw attendance from representatives of partner agencies including those listed above, as well as Conservation International and WWF-Guyana.

During his opening remarks, UNDP-Guyana Resident Representative, Jairo Valvedre Bermudez noted that “the project supports the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and related instruments- the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Minamata Convention, and takes cognizance of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.” He also noted that the mining sector has been of great concern due to the use of mercury and its impacts on the environment, emphasizing the project’s importance to sustainable livelihoods and human health.

Also delivering remarks, was Ms. Sharifah Razack, Deputy Executive Director of the EPA, who noted that despite major contributions to the economy, gold mining has been identified as a major driver of deforestation, forest degradation, and associated biodiversity loss. It is against this backdrop, that the proposed long-term solutions to address the said problems need to have in place strong policies and regulations, including financial instruments, institutional capacity and coordination, the ability to adequately enforce the framework, and monitoring of the impacts of mining on different environmental parameters. She highlighted that the project will entail substantial training opportunities for miners to be able to put best practices in place suitable to their needs.

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Gas Station Capacity Building & Needs Assessment Workshop

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Senior Environmental Officer Mrs. Sonia Gumbs-Luke delivering a presentation to attendees.

During March 15-16, 2021, the Agency conducted a two-day workshop at its Whim Office in Region 6 which targeted developers/owners from gas stations located in Region 5 and 6. The objectives were to raise awareness on the EPA’s Environmental Authorisation Process and applicable regulations for gas stations/ bunkering operations, and ensure gas station operators are equipped with the relevant knowledge to become authorised and remain compliant. Additionally, emphasis was placed on the requirements and importance of submitting annual reports and the need for all their fire equipment to be serviced periodically.  This was one of a series of capacity-building planned throughout this year to avoid and reduce incidences of spillage and manifestation of potential hazards.

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EPA’s Response to Stabroek News and Kaieteur News Articles on the Environmental Permits for the Liza 1 and Payara Development Projects

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July 02, 2021 - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly disagrees with the Stabroek News article titled: “Payara clause could allow Exxon to flare gas for free” published on Monday June 28, 2021, and Kaieteur News article titled: “Govt has weakened environmental standards in favour of ExxonMobil” published on Friday July 02, 2021.

The EPA takes this opportunity to categorically state that flaring for sixty (60) days is only permissible for “Start-up” in both permits. International benchmarking shows that the typical acceptable start-up period for installations of this nature average 90 days; therefore the EPA’s 60-day requirement is much more stringent as it is well below the average international benchmark. As far as the EPA is aware, there was never an agreement to prescribe two (2) days of start-up since this was impossible given the nature of the installations.

Further, it is erroneous to contend that there is “no provision to stop flaring after sixty days” since both permits specifically state: “The Permit Holder shall not exceed sixty (60) days of flaring during Start-up.”

Moreover, there is no “carte blanche” for flaring under ‘Special Circumstances’ either, as the company is required to seek approval from the EPA for any flaring beyond 48 cumulative hours. Routine flaring and venting are also strictly prohibited by both permits.

The EPA maintains and reserves the right to reject any request for flaring made pursuant to these Permits and if an approval is given, the EPA may include such terms and conditions as may be appropriate, including reduced timelines for any proposed flaring events.

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Environmental Audit for Hyde Park Zoo Sanctuary and Tropical Gardens Inc.

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The Infrastructure and Project Management Sector of the EPA has numerous projects relative to the construction of small, medium, and large-scale commercial and industrial buildings. Moreover, in addition to the construction of the aforementioned buildings, the construction or operation of facilities such as zoological parks and other green spaces come under the purview of this department.

One of the department’s major projects requesting renewal of Environmental Authorisation was the construction of Hyde Park Zoo Sanctuary and Tropical Gardens. The proposed project will facilitate a spectacle of various animals, some native to Guyana, and others from around the world. According to the project documents, the proposed facility will be the first of its kind in Guyana and will promote conservation, employment for various specialists, recreation for families, education for kids in a safe, healthy, and serene environment.

The proposed development is being established at areas PML1 and VML2 of Tract “H” all being portions of Lots C and D comprising the South Half of North Plantation and North Half of Lots 10, 11, and 12 of Land of Canaan on the East Bank of Demerara. The total land area of the overall site is 186 acres, of which 36 acres will be taken up by the proposed facility.