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Quoting the Constitution of Guyana, “Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to his or her wellbeing,” former President David Granger said, to ensure this entitlement is fulfilled there needs to be better approaches to development. “We Must be able to balance human needs against human greed.”
Bemoaning the poor management of non-biodegradable products littered across the environment, crater holes created in the earth from mining and logging, and breathing of mosquitoes that spread diseases such as malaria, Granger said, Guyana needs to pay attention to managing environmental challenges and be concerned which the necessity of pursuing internal and international partnerships.
The protection of the Guiana Shield is important. The Shield contains some of the earth’s most diverse spices and stores 18 percent of the world’s tropical carbon, which is essential as a defense against damages caused by human pollution, destruction of the sea defense, etc. The shield is also essential to enriching and replenishing the earth’s biodiverse services, ecosystem services, water, medicinal products, and foods.
Granger implored on Guyanese the need to be involved in protecting the planet, which the present generation does not own but is mere trustee and must bequeath to future generations. Where everyone now seems “drunk with oil and gas” and not the environment, Granger worries enough attention is not being paid to environmental, which was a value placed on the national agenda from the Forbes Burnham government with the Amazon Cooperation Treaty; Desmond Hoyte government establishment of the Iwokrama Rainforest Project to prevent land degradation and foster species protection.
Citing his own ambition as President with the I0-Year Green State Economy Plan, and whilst admitting the administration did not achieve all its aims, he noted that under his leadership Guyana signed the United Nations (UN) Paris Climate Change Agreement, and he was the recipient of an UN award for government’s efforts to protect the environment, which “was a proud moment for Guyana’s recognition” of environmental sustainability and protection of the Shield.
Zeroing in on the flooding, Granger warned the situation has a relation to environmental management. The regions being affected, he said, have been disfigured by environmental damages from logging and mining, water pollution, and discarding of non-biodegradable products which are shrew across the land. These are causing long term damage to the environment, and people have to start looking at these.
Appearing in his Public Interest programme, Granger impressed the need to look at sustainable development and value the role of the people in achieving same. Warning that political divisions between countries and exclusion of people within countries are antithetical to the protection of the environment, Granger said work must be done to rethink development with the focus of protecting the environment.
The world is getting warmer, which is resulting in forest fires, but instead of preserving the forest people are cutting down trees to create cattle ranches and cutting down the mangroves to build oil and gas projects, said Granger. He stated the environment must be mainstreamed, starting in the schools, to help people understand the importance of its management. ‘It is important to rethink ways of protecting the environment and strengthening the livelihood of the populations living in the Guiana Shield.’
The question becomes, “What is the way forward on the management of the Shield and country?” To wit Granger proposed four measures: – 1) Infrastructural development within Guyana and between its neighbours; 2) strengthening institutional governance where people could take ownership of their community by involving regional and local governments in respective areas to prevent environmental damage; 3) international cooperation, which is essential to environmental security; and 4) transformational economic and social policies that see the involvement of people, consistent with Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana, in a shared vision and participation.
Presidents may come and go, but the Guiana Shield remains important to sustaining the environment and our survival, and we must ensure we work to protect the environment for present and future generations, said Granger.