Address by His Excellency, President David Granger at the Signing of the Sustainable Land Development Project Document
Protecting our patrimony
Guyana is a beautiful and bountiful country. It is endowed with an equable climate and diverse ecosystems – including coastland beaches and mudflats, grasslands, highlands, islands, wetlands, lakes, rainforests, rivers and waterfalls – each of which is the habitat of some of the world’s most unique biodiversity.
Guyana, daily, is developing into a ‘green state.’ Our national anthem sings of a “…land of rivers and plains, made rich by the sunshine and lush by the rains, set gem-like and fair between mountains and seas…”
Guyana, also, is part of the Guiana Shield, one of the world’s last remaining blocks of pristine rainforest. The ‘Shield’ is the source of 15 per cent of the earth’s freshwater reserves. Its biodiversity provides ecosystem services such as food, freshwater and medicinal products.
These services are going to become even more valuable for humanity in the face of increasing population growth, rising global scarcity and intensified biodiversity losses. Guyana’s biodiversity – our flora fauna – is a precious, world-class resource which must be protected.
Guyana’s land-based natural capital must be managed sustainably if present and future generations are to enjoy the ‘good life.’ Sustainable land development is essential to protecting our natural patrimony and ensuring economic development.
Guyana is crafting a Framework Document of the Green State Development Strategy in order to ensure sustainable development. Land use planning and natural resource management are among the core strategic areas. The ‘Strategy’ will place emphasis on the effective management and protection of our land and marine resources, our ecosystems and the rich biodiversity of these systems, inter alia.
Land resources could be degraded, depleted and devalued by both natural and man-made actions. Rising sea levels, caused by global warming, have eroded our natural sea defence structures. The porousness of some of our drainage systems has allowed for intrusion of salt water into farmlands. Excessive rainfall could lead to the swelling of rivers; affect soil productivity and exact crop losses.
The increased demand for lands for farming, logging and mining has increased the threats to our natural capital. Logging and mining are the main causes of deforestation. Small-scale mining alone accounted for 89 per cent of deforestation over the past three years. River mining is polluting our waterways on which many hinterland residents still depend for bathing, drinking, fishing and washing.
Reckless use and management of land can impact adversely on the environment and citizens’ quality of life. Land degradation has the potential to affect food security, sustainable livelihoods, poverty reduction and social stability.
Guyana therefore recognizes the importance of protecting its land assets. It knows that the land degradation will result in natural resource depletion which, if not controlled, will lead to underdevelopment.
Guyana has committed itself to preserve its land assets. It has agreed to place an additional two million hectares of our territory under conservation and convert the Iwokrama International Center for Rainforest Conservation and Development into a world-class biodiversity research facility.
We shall also promote more efficient mining and logging practices, including post-extractive land reclamation; push sustainable forestry practices including reduced-impact logging and improved forest monitoring and pursue mineral mapping so to identify areas of marginal, or less than viable, mineral deposits.
These are the steps at the international level, to which Guyana has agreed in order to protect its patrimony and provide environmental services for the rest of the world.
Guyana’s green development agenda demands the fulfilment of these environmental obligations. It demands the adoption of practices to better manage our land resources and the augmentation of institutional capacity to improve monitoring and verification of land use. It demands the modernisation of archaic land development and management systems. It demands integrated land development and management practices to resolve the problems of land degradation.
Land governance is central to the green development agenda. The Mainstreaming Sustainable Land Development and Management Project aims at improving land governance by:
- promoting good environmental stewardship, sustainable land use and management practices;
- planning, monitoring and evaluating capacities of state institutions concerned with land management; and,
- preventing land conflicts; increasing land reclamation of degraded public lands and reducing degraded areas.
The Mainstreaming Sustainable Land Development and Management Project will allow Guyana to protect its natural capital by reducing land degradation. It promotes responsible farming, logging, mining and other land uses.
I welcome the launch of this Project. I am confident that it will allow Guyana to build capacity, strengthen its land governance and move more quickly to the goal of becoming a ‘green state.’