A Land Reclamation Unit, aimed at the restoration of the land distributed by mining operations, will soon be established by Government.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon, appearing before the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources in the Parliamentary Chambers on Wednesday, disclosed that Government has already taken steps to set up this department.
Answering questions posed by Head of the Committee, Member of Parliament (MP), Odinga Lumumba, about the need for a better system for land reclamation with regards to the mining sector, Minister Harmon affirmed Government’s commitment to this process.
According to Opposition MP Lumumba, there is legislation, “but it is not firm.” Lumumba pointed out, “You have to have a policy which clearly states that this is the way that you are going to reclaim the land after you complete your job. This must be put in the agreement before you start operations.” The former Presidential Adviser added that land reclamation can see lands being used in innovative ways such as creating man-made lakes for sport fishing and recreation.
Responding to the query by his parliamentary colleague, Minister Harmon acknowledged that it was easier for large companies to fulfill this obligation and enforce these regulations. “The question is about our will to enforce those regulations and the fact that we need a stronger enforcement mechanism, within the Ministry of Natural Resources, in terms of forest rangers and other people who can insist and ensure that the companies do what they are required to do under our law.”
The Ministry of the Presidency had announced earlier that the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) will be partnering with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UNFAO) to implement a Sustainable Land Development and Management Project, expected to take effect in January 2017.
The proposed project, among other things, is intended to; promote good environmental stewardship in a green economy to achieve a better quality of life, improve planning, monitoring and evaluation capacities to address land management needs, improve standard of living through sustainable land use and management practices, strengthen monitoring and enforcement capacity and ensure compliance with sustainable land management practices, mainstream policy and implementation by natural resource agencies and implement sustainable land development and management and monitoring using indicators for the reduction of land use conflicts and innovative problem solving initiatives.
It is also expected to increase land reclamation of degraded public lands and reduce degraded areas in relation to total land area, improve organisational image through better client-employees relations and ensure greater coordination and improved service delivery in technical areas.
Land reclamation remains a sore issue in the mining sector as many hinterland communities have been left with scarred landscapes after mining concessions were exhausted and operations moved to other locations.
Communities such as Mahdia, in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) have been left with many pits and these were not refilled. These formed breeding grounds for mosquitoes and the increase in the spread of malaria.
The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) recently embarked upon reinforcing the amendment regulations 2005, for environmental management.
This instantly created an impact in the community, by curbing the pollution of waterways and encouraged soil reclamation and replanting of trees in deforested areas.
In 2014, Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud announced a $500 million Land Reclamation Project that his Ministry will undertake to clean up the many mined-out areas in the hinterland.
He had explained that the project will see focus being placed on reclaiming forested land and engaging in reforestation activities in areas that are affected as a result of mining and timber extraction.
Subsequently, the Ministry hosted a Land Reclamation project miners’ forum to educate and enlighten miners on how they can incorporate land reclamation with mining and the benefits that can be derived from this process.
During the presentation, factors that would contribute to successful reclamation were also highlighted which included getting miners to understand the concepts of the process and the economic benefits that can be derived, along with the enforcement of the environmental regulations and non-disturbance of sites under and after reclamation.