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Environment conversations in the making

Students of the St Margaret’s Primary School urging persons to keep their environment clean (GINA photo)

Guyana used the observance of World Environment Day on Thursday to announce that a series of national conversations on the environment will be held shortly.
The announcement was made by Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud. He said they would be made in collaboration with sister agencies.

“These are not only about talking, but also hoping that we can mobilise increased awareness, ensuring that Guyanese groups and the business community, that we get more on board in terms of looking at the immediate issues of the environment in our society and in our country as a whole … through these national conversations we do hope to enhance and expand mobilisation,” Minister Persaud said.

The Ministry in association with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today held its annual activity to commemorate World Environment Day which was observed under the theme “Raise your voice, not the sea level”, dedicated to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the Seawall bandstand.

World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action and raising awareness about climate change and global warming.  Today there are in excess of about 10 million climate refugees as a result of extreme weather patterns and sea level rise.

Minister Persaud said that  Guyana is fortunate to have that level of awareness amongst the national population, and also over the years Government has recognised that the issue of the environment and implementing the necessary policy programmes and projects must be given  priority.

The protection of the Guyana’s coastline is linked to the country’s economic and social existence. Minister Persaud stated that Guyana is vulnerable as any small state, and while there is awareness programmes both locally and internationally, much more needs to be done to tackle the issue of climate change, locally, regionally and internationally.

Minister Persaud highlighted the issues farmers and other residents face as a result of the rise of sea level. “The issue is not only of concern in a general way to the environment, but also what we can do in mitigation and adaption in preparing out population, those matters remain a priority for our president and for our entire Government.”

Minister Persaud reiterated that it is hoped that an occasion such as today’s can result in enhanced action at both the private and public sector levels.

However, the Environment Minister said that very importantly is the support from international level, explaining that, “Whilst at the local level, and we can talk about how proud we are as Guyanese and other countries to have done their part, collectively at the international level especially where we have commitments made, we do not see these commitments being honoured and delivered upon”.

Meanwhile Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn stated that Guyana must react to the fact that the coastland is below sea level and might be another two meters below sea level in years to come.

Minister Benn said that Government with support from international agencies has invested more than US$1.9B for sea and river defence this year.  “We have to recognise that the change that we want to see with respect to global warming, climate change, sea level rise…..that change has to start with us also at the individual level, the community, the administration, the society and  departments”, Minister Benn noted.

He said that his Ministry has been working and trying to cut cost, hence the reason for the establishment of programmes such as mangrove replanting and improved maintenance.

He urged all Guyanese to keen the environment clean and desist from doing anything that will have a negative effect on it.

During today’s event, tribute was also paid to former chairman of the EPA board of Director, Ronald Webster , and prizes was handed out to  schools, organisations and clubs that would has been actively involved in  keeping the environment clean.

The World Environment Day celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.