A Partnership for National Unity calls on the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration to promulgate a comprehensive, national environmental strategy. Such a strategy is needed to protect the population from hazards, to preserve the environment from further degradation, to sustain development and to create a sustainable ‘green economy’ in the shortest time possible.
Guyana’s biggest problems are those of air and water pollution, deforestation, coastal zone conservation, flooding, marine litter, public health, solid waste management and damage to rivers and forests by poorly regulated mining and logging practices. These are all harmful to the people’s health and well-being. Several serious problems make pursuing a strategy necessary:
- Air pollution: Air pollution is a serious health hazard. Residents living close to rice mills and saw mills, affected by dust, have complained of respiratory illnesses. Residents of the west bank of the Demerara River in the mining town of Linden endured decades of dust pollution. They have all called on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministry of Health to investigate industries which discharge dust into the air.
- Coastal zone management: Coastal zone management received only patchy attention as part of the government’s Low Carbon Development Strategy. The initiative – which sought to generate salt water-tolerant, carbon absorbing mangrove plants along the East Coast Demerara foreshore, as part of the effort to strengthen this country’s capability to prevent or mitigate floods – has been inadequate.
- Deforestation: Deforestation has been the most visible consequence of the ‘gold rush’ in the hinterland. The sudden expansion of the mining sector, however, spawned a new class of persons with little mining experience and foreigners with little concern for the country’s long-term development. Many new operators brought earth-moving equipment and introduced techniques which resulted in increased deforestation, riverine pollution and environmental damage.
- Marine litter: Marine litter – consisting of man-made, solid material that does not decompose easily, which has been thrown into the marine and coastal environment – results in a continuous build-up of refuse. Evidence indicates that the vast majority of marine litter comes from land-based sources such as municipal landfills located near to the coast, riverine transportation, untreated municipal sewage, overflows from commercial agricultural and industrial facilities and recreational activities on the coast.
- Public health: Public health has been threatened by reckless mining practices. Water pollution has been blamed for the persistence of diarrhoeal, vector-borne, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Malaria has become more prevalent in places where stagnant water in abandoned mining pits provides breeding places for mosquitoes. Rivers are still the main, sometimes sole, source of fresh water for drinking, bathing, washing and for travelling to farms for hinterland communities but the courses of some rivers have been altered by erosion and tailings. Residents have frequently complained of skin disorders after using river water.
- Solid waste management: Solid waste mismanagement remains the single, greatest challenge to people living in the city, towns, neighbourhoods and villages all over the country. Municipalities lack the resources to improve the collection and safe disposal of debris and waste.
APNU is convinced that Guyana’s favourable geographical location, rich mineral and natural resources should be conducive to developing a ‘green economy’ – one that generates growth and human happiness in ways that are consistent with economic exploitation of those resources. A ‘green economy’ is one that sustains economic prosperity, environmental security and social well-being and that allows the current generation to satisfy its needs without jeopardising the opportunity of future generations to satisfy theirs.
APNU is convinced that a ‘green economy’ would generate more than enough wealth to transform the hinterland into a land of prosperity. There could be enough money to finance the schools, security and infrastructure that are the foundations on which to build and equitable society. A strategy is needed to harness our natural resources to create a ‘green economy’ and provide a good life for all Guyanese.