GUYANA: Stop miners from causing irreparable damage to environment – Former EPA Head

Photo showing the damage done to the environment, which is caused by mining.

  • Half of the population is below the age of 25, so what are we gonna give them? They are the ones who are gonna have to survive this,” – Dr. Vincent Adams

Kaieteur NewsNov 30, 2020 – The Government of Guyana must take the necessary steps to put a stop to those miners and mining companies that are causing irreparable damage to the environment. This is the well-intended advice offered by former Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams.             

During his appearance on the Kaieteur Radio show: Governance, Corruption and Justice, Dr. Adams was reminded of his concerns for the mining operations, the pollution it has caused on Guyana’s waterways, and whether the EPA has been able to contain the situation.

To this, Dr. Adams said, “I saw some videos of what goes on in those rivers and it really makes my stomach sick. Those rivers were once pristine and clean, and now you have these dredges and trees across the banks. When people are finished, they go dredge along the banks and even changing the direction of the river… The river is just milky and it is just sickening to be exact.”

With this damage, the former EPA Head highlighted that it is almost “impossible” for the EPA to attempt to clean up the damage. Instead, steps must be taken to stop the miners from creating that damage.
“The first clean up is to stop it. To make sure that stuff does not get into the river. This means thorough regulations and thorough enforcement. So, you can stop it, but the cleaning up is not easy and it might take just natural attenuation and natural mechanism. It would probably take decades or even more than that to complete that cleaning.”

Former EPA Head, Dr. Vincent Adams

But even with its pure intentions, Dr. Adams pointed out that the EPA is ill-equipped and understaffed to complete its mandate. The EPA, according to Dr. Adams, currently lacks the basic capacities, such as human resources, to assess simple environmental issues.

A forensic audit of the agency done back in 2015 had discovered that the EPA should have had at least 263 persons employed. However, according to Dr. Adams, at the start of his tenure, only 90 persons were there.

With work, overtime the number increased to 120 and plans were afoot to boost it to at least 300, Dr. Adams reported. Not only that, he noted too, that plans were in the works to procure a state-of-the-art laboratory for the EPA.

However, these plans were cut short after the new People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) regime recently terminated his contract. But even with those improvements, it still was not enough. Simple measuring equipment to measure pollutants in the air are lacking at the agency, Dr. Adams relayed.

“It is a problem and what used to happen was, we have staff that were very dedicated and they mean well and one of the things that we were doing was, we had some outdated equipment and they were going out taking measurements using those and I said if the equipment is old, I say we put it aside and say we don’t have the equipment,” he continued, adding

“When we say that now, people laugh at us and say that we are not an EPA. But I prefer for us to not give any data because you are playing with people’s lives because you are gonna say that okay, this is safe, but it is the wrong measurement.”

The environmental expert called on the government to provide adequate funding for the EPA as it is the guardian of Guyana’s environment and plays an intricate role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Guyanese.

“There is oil and gas, mining, road construction, etc., everything has to pass through the EPA so we need the resources, if we are going to really be serious about protecting people’s health, safety and the environment.

Half of the population is below the age of 25, so what are we gonna give them? They are the ones who are gonna have to survive this,” he said.

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