The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with the Guyana Country Office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Guianas, and with support from the Netherlands Commission on Environmental Assessment, successfully executed a one-week training workshop, from July 8-12, 2019.
Facilitated by two experts, Giel Hendriks and Peter Nelson from the Netherlands Commission on Environmental Assessment, the workshop aimed at building capacity of local organisations to strengthen management within Guyana’s mining sector.
Approximately 35 participants, representing 17 agencies in the environmental conservation and management arena, benefited from this training workshop, which was focused on increasing human resource capital and capability to undertake strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for the ASGM and other sectors.
Through the lens of the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS)
Undoubtedly, mining contributes significantly to Guyana’s socio-economic landscape. However, it comes at a cost, one mainly borne by the environment. Biodiversity loss, reduced water quality and quantity, social conflicts resulting from land use, as well as acute and chronic health risks are some of the issues associated directly or indirectly with mining.
Therefore, in an effort to make more evidence-based decisions to transform the sector, this partnership comes at a critical juncture in Guyana’s development: as the country rolls out its vision for a green and inclusive economy through its Green State Development Strategy: vision 2040 (GSDS).
The GSDS promotes three key messages: management of natural resource wealth; support for economic resilience, and building of human capital and institutional capacity.
This training was designed to help environmental planners and managers take a more strategic and evidence-based approach when devising solutions to the issues and challenges in the environmental management arena, with focus being placed on policies, plans and programmes.
Speaking on behalf of the EPA at the opening ceremony, Senior Environmental Officer Mr. Collis Primo lauded the partnership, particularly as the EPA continues to strengthen and increase its capability to respond to its evolving work portfolio as it prepares to monitor and regulate emerging sectors, principally oil and gas.
Country Manager of WWF Guyana Office, Ms. Aiesha Williams, said the exercise was nestled in the EPA’s governance of thematic areas, specifically under the Shared Resources Joint Solutions Programme.
“This programme aims to safeguard international public goods around climate resilience, food security, and water provisioning,” she explained.
Also delivering remarks were Mr. Carlos Todd from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), and Ms. Uma Madray from the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).
The EPA and the ASGM industry
Further, the EPA, under the Environmental Protection Act, Cap. 20:05, Laws of Guyana and complementary regulations, has the responsibility to regulate all activities related to mining and its development.
Noting the position of the GSDS and EP Act, and given the continuous expansion of the ASGM industry, it is critical that the EPA develop a mechanism to ensure that all ASGM operators are regulated. It is against this backdrop that the need for specific training on the development of a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for the ASGM industry was seen as a critical need for the Agency.
In this regard, the EPA sees the SEA as a tool that can be used to identify critical environmental and social safeguards to be incorporated into any plans, permits and policies for the industry, and to strengthen the overall regulatory framework.
What is a SEA?
Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is the process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes prior to their final adoption.
The premise of SEA can thus be simply stated: Environmental impact assessment (EIA) on its own is not enough. Only a relatively small proportion of the proposals and decisions made by governments are subject to examination. SEA rounds out and scales up the coverage from projects to include policy, plans, programmes and other proposed strategic actions with potentially important environmental effects. The objectives of SEA are to provide for a high level of protection of the environment, and to promote sustainable development.
Optimally, SEA is a proactive tool to anticipate and prevent environmental damage.
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