Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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The EPA TCL
(Aired 9 November 2004)

   The EPA was established by act of Parliament No. 11 in June 1996, when Sam Hinds was acting for Dr. Cheddie Jagan as President of the Republic, so we can safely assume that the formation of an EPA was Dr. Jagan's wish even though he did not live to see its passage through to Law, but I am told that he wanted it for our protection since the year before in August of 1995 the OMAI spill happened and the government did not have the right to inspect, or have any say in, how the tailings ponds at Omai were constructed.

    Whatever it was that Dr Jagan had in mind, the result has been one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the Guyanese people! We are falsely led to believe that we have a functioning Environmental Protection Agency [E.P.A.] which will protect us and our children from harmful pollution; when in fact what we have is a political money making machine for friends and supporters of the PPP who are paid to have the government force the EPA to turn a blind eye and waive assessments for projects which are potential environmental disasters.

   Conversely the EPA is also a weapon which can, and is, used to persecute anyone who is perceived to be unfriendly to the PPP. So much for the return of Democracy!

   The Act itself guarantees political interference, since the Director of the EPA including the Executive Director shall, according to this act, be appointed by the President.

   In the original Act, exportation of wildlife was to be managed by the EPA, but was later transferred to the Office of the President, this change, allegedly prompted due to accusations that the EPA was corrupt in its dealings concerning the exporting of wildlife, specifically the export of monkeys to Japan, prompted the removal this important function from the EPA to the Office of the President; in other words they moved it out of the pot and put it in the fire, the shenanigans associated with the export of dolphins [a protected species] which is currently being investigated by the Auditor General comes to mind and has lead to a most unsavoury exchange between the auditor General and the President who does not want this dirty linen of what the Presidents men did, regarding the exportation of Dolphins, to enter the public domain since it is a kind of Dolphingate and a potential embarrassment to Mr. Jagdeo. But I will leave this in the capable hands of Mr. Goolsaran.

   Even today as I am writing this comment I see in the newspaper a letter from one Gilbert Campbell claiming that the residents at Coldingen are being poisoned by Phenol fumes from the asphalt plant there, the editor of the Stabroek News asked EPA director Doerga Persaud for a comment and he is still waiting for a reply, but in not supplying that reply according to the Act, Mr. Doerga is breaking the law! Hour after hour we are bombarded on the government's radio and television stations with unproven facts about what this government has done for us over the last 12 years, but we all know that it is a pack of lies and I will address some of them later.

   It has been clear however that even those areas outside the monitoring of the exploitation and exportation of protected animal species that the EPA has failed us miserably, the fact that Didco has never produced an Environmental Impact Assessment Study on the potential of their polluting the two creeks which feed Splashmins and Emerald Towers through the disposal of chicken dung at the top of Yaracabra Hill and the recent condemnation of the EPA by the PAHO/WHO who have been quoted in the local media as saying that the EPA is ill equipped to carry out its mandate of environmental protection.

   The PAHO/WHO people are diplomats and are constrained by diplomacy I am not, our EPA, or the people they get their instructions from, are far too preoccupied with filling their own pockets to worry about you and me or the environment!

    So ladies and gentlemen the EPA has failed us all, since it has become a legal entity which is not functioning to protect the public from environmental hazards, but will allow any environmental hazard to pass unnoticed for a fee, and to hell with the rest of us.

   This could not possibly have been what Dr. Jagan had in mind. 

   First let's examine some of the situations which require an Environment Impact Assessment study according to the act.

    It is laid out for us in section 4 of the act and states inter alia that the agency shall force any person who is constructing any project, even a hotel with more than 10 rooms ladies and gentlemen, to produce a study which shall identify, describe and evaluate the direct and indirect effects of the proposed project on the environment, including its effect on humans, flora, fauna and species habitat, the soil, water, air and climatic factors, the cultural heritage, the landscape, natural resources including how much of a particular resource is degraded or eliminated and how quickly the natural system may deteriorate. The ecological balance and ecosystems, the interaction between the factors listed above and any other environmental factors that needs investigating.

    Now the act is very specific on some points, one important point is that before any environmental impact assessment is begun the EPA shall, at the developer's expense, publish in at least one daily newspaper a notice of the project and make available to members of the public the project summary referred to in subsection 1.

   Section 9 tells us that a. during the course of the environmental impact assessment the Developer and the person carrying out the environmental impact assessment shall consult members of the public, interested bodies and organisations and

 b. provide to members of the public on request and at no more then the reasonable cost of photocopying, copies of all information obtained for the purpose of The Environmental Impact Assessment.

   Now I come to the specific issue Trinidad Cement Limited wants to establish a cement packaging plant in this country, they don't want to have to build a wharf on the East Bank near the river at a more remote location where any pollution that may arise in time will not affect people living around the packaging plant, these people are setting up to provide us with cement and if their promises of cheap cement is true, we will be giving them a virtual monopoly on selling cement in this country forever, so it is a long term plan which will last forever so why not invest in a wharf at a more remote location on the Demerara river? why be cheap and short sighted and set up in the middle of Georgetown? It is false economy and it is eye pass, TCL can't try that nonsense in Trinidad so why here? Incredibly this money starved government do not ask for an environmental impact assessment study as they are required to do by Dr. Jagan's law of 1996, they waive it!

   This bulk cement has to be vacuum sucked from a ship and stored in bulk in a bond at GNIC and then bagged at a later time, all of this according to the EPA and TCL will not allow one particle of cement dust to fly in the air of Lombard Street and pollute its residents or the workers of GNIC!!!!

    Ladies and gentlemen according to my investigations cement dust is a very dangerous chemical and the silica in it can and does cause lung cancer nearly as badly as asbestos it also causes birth defects so the EPA should tread lightly in this matter.

     As concerned citizens therefore we wrote the EPA and asked for the impact study on this project; I have explained to you that is our right under the Law to do so but Doerga Persaud the current EPA Director did not supply us with the documentation we asked for, instead he issued a press statement telling the public that the EPA has granted TCL a waiver and that the waiver was properly granted. And in his written response to us he tells us that we should look at his press release, now the law says that this man must disclose all documentation to us and all he can charge us for, is the photocopying of those documents! I will now take him to court for breaking the law.