US professor calls on Natural Resources Minister : …discusses sustainable forestry, renewable energy and climate change

MINISTER of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud met yesterday with Mr. Jeffrey Barrus, Economic and Commercial Officer of the US Embassy, and Dr. Janaki Alavalapati, senior fellow with the Energy and Climate Partnership of Americas (ECPA).

Mr. Barrus expressed his appreciation to the minister for organising the meetings with Dr. Alavalapati and the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), Protected Areas Commission (PAC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier in the week. He noted that Dr. Alavalapati also met with other governmental officials and NGOs throughout the week.

Dr. Alavalapati reiterated U.S. commitment to energy and climate change by making reference to President Obama’s 2009 visit to Trinidad and Tobago. He emphasised that there are seven pillars under the broad thematic area of energy and climate change however, and one of them which is of vital importance to Guyana is sustainable forestry and land use.

Dr. Alavalapati brought to the attention of the minister five themes which emerged over the course of the week in the meetings with the agencies and commissions, under the purview of the ministry. These are research in lesser used species (timber & non-timber), exploration in value-added opportunities, assisting Amerindian communities to increase their competitiveness, capacity building both at the governmental and academic level, and addressing multiple land-use concerns. He added that an idea for consideration is reclamation of mined-out gold and bauxite sites.

The minister responded by discussing several priority activities and policies that the agencies and commissions are working on as it relates to the themes that Dr. Alavalapati brought to his attention. He recognised the importance of all of the themes, but elaborated on value-added products and multiple land use. The minister explained that for value-added products to increase, Guyana needs reliable and renewable energy sources to increase its competitiveness. He made reference to the land use plan which is in its final stages of completion.

Minister Persaud indicated that two plant species considered for the reclamation of mined-out sites are bamboo and teak however, and observed that they must be commercially viable species. The minister recognised that there is a need to build technical capacity within this area, and a high level of dedicated expertise in developing policy and implementation is required.

Dr. Alavalapati briefly discussed the possibilities of bio-energy in Guyana with the minister. The minister referred to a draft bio-energy policy and a road map and believes that there are tremendous possibilities within the industry.
In concluding, the senior fellow asserted that the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment has the unique strength to balance the extractive sector (mining and forestry) with environmental management in Guyana. (GINA)