Do we have to choose between oil and life? 

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Dear Editor, 

Sometime in June of this year, I wrote a ‘Letter of Appeal’ to the Environmental Assessment Board and copied it to the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Minister of Health, on behalf of residents of Coverden on the East Bank of Demerara, expressing our objection, relative to EPA’s ‘Public Notice’ in relation to ‘Non-Destructive Testers Limited (Guyana) Inc.- Storage of Sealed Radioactive Source – Industrial Radiography Device’, to be located at Lot 1 of Lots 1 and 2 Thuiste Te Coverden, East Bank, Demerara (the former Clay Brick Factory). 

I also wrote a letter-to-the-editor, which was published in June, expressing our objection. Our position was very clear that we did not agree for storage of radioactive devices to be done in the community, and that position was non-negotiable. However, since June, I have not heard from the Environmental Assessment Board (EAB) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

However, it is rumored that apparently permission was granted, and radioactive devices are being stored at the location mentioned above. Editor, I wish to enquire of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Assessment Board or the Vice President, whether permission was granted to the ‘Non-Destructive Testers Limited (Guyana) Inc. or any other company, to store radioactive devices or conduct any business relative to radioactivity at Lot 1 of Lots 1 and 2 Thuiste Te Coverden, East Bank, Demerara? Secondly, if permission was granted, what was the process for granting the permission? I trust that this is just a rumor. 

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Editor, can you imagine, the EPA did not require that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or an Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) be done for a radioactivity project? Additionally, the EPA regulations require that the project be more that 200m away from the closest residents, however, someone can stand on the premises of the Clay Brick Factory and easily throw a stone into the closest home, that is how close the project will be to residents. However, the EIA and the distance is not relevant in this case because the position of the residents on the storage of radioactive devices at the location, is non-negotiable. 

Editor, the EPA and EAB ought not to put Guyanese in the position where they are forced to choose between oil and gas and life. I know that many if not most Guyanese will choose life over wealth. I am a big supporter of the oil and gas industry in Guyana, we need money and resources to develop the country, however, there are very good examples of countries which are involved in oil and gas production but have sustainable and responsible ways of developing and managing the industry. 

I understand that our country and people will be required to make certain compromises in order to facilitate the production of oil and gas, however, I insist that the approach must be a sustainable development and sustainable business one. It seems that Guyana is afraid to set high standards for the oil and gas industry. 

 

I know that the Vice President, Bharat Jagdeo is in the ‘engine room’ reviewing many of these investments and proposals, I wish to challenge the Vice President, to set higher standards for the oil and gas industry. Our leaders cannot serve two masters, they must choose; it is either they will serve the people of Guyana or another master. 

The residents at Coverden welcome investments in their community, but investments which will be done in sustainable and responsible ways, investments where there will be mutual benefit. What the residents of Coverden would like to have in their community, is a US$200 – 600M ‘Shore base’ facility, like the one at Vreed-en-Hoop on the West Bank of Demerara, not the storage of radioactive devices. People are paying keen attention! I look forward to receiving a response from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Assessment Board to my questions. 

Yours faithfully, 

Audreyanna Thomas



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