Restructuring of EPA to foster modern environmental regulatory body

DPI, GUYANA, Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will this year be undertaking an independent external comprehensive review of the agency, as well as finalising its strategic plan 2018-2022 as part of its modernisation efforts.

The Department of the Environment on Monday held its annual sector review where all the heads of agencies falling under its purview presented their 2018 work programmes and highlighted their 2017 achievements and challenges.

Kemraj Parsram, Executive Director (ag)- Environmental Protection Agency.

Head of the EPA, Kemraj Parsram, informed that the agency will continue to focus on key areas that are aligned with the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS).

“Which is ensuring clean air…our mining in terms of rivers is polluted so we needed to focus on that. Waste management and resource efficiency, those are key tenets in the Green State framework and of course that is something we need to focus on and of course protection and conservation of our biodiversity particularly our coastal and marine resources, as well because of course with the advent of the oil and gas sector we need to ensure our resources are managed,” Parsram noted.

He highlighted a number of challenges the agency faces including lack of requisite technical expertise to effectively address complex and specialised subject matters such as Oil and Gas; a timely transformation of the EPA to meet the needs of several cross-cutting and emerging issues of a rapidly changing society; and maintaining a stable staffing to keep pace with increasing demands to manage the country’s environment.

Difficulty in soliciting the full support and participation of stakeholders to address environmental issues that require a multi-sectoral approach, especially those issues that appear to have conflicting sectoral goals was another challenge for the Agency.

This year, the EPA is expected to complete offices in Lethem, Region Nine and Whim, Region Six; amend the Schedule of Fees in the Environmental Protection Act and implement several cost recovery mechanisms.

Additionally, the Agency hopes to strengthen its environmental monitoring, compliance and enforcement programme and commence the first phase of construction of a laboratory.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon who was present at the meeting, said the restructuring that is taking place within the EPA, is geared at bringing the agency more in line with what is required of a modern environmental regulatory agency.

“Standing Operating Procedures, excellent idea. People must know that if they have a gas station and need something to be done, that they want to go to the EPA and they do not need to a take a month or a year to have an EPA certification. I believe that the EPA must be part of the permission process,” Minister Harmon advised.

The State Minister stressed the importance of public awareness and called on the Agency to craft a comprehensive communication strategy, which he believes will augur well for both the EPA and the stakeholders.

In this vein, it was disclosed that a plan is afoot to develop and implement an EPA communication strategy, which will see the hiring of a dedicated Communication Specialist.

In 2017, the EPA hosted its first Green Forum and launched the State of the Environment Report.  These, the agency Head noted are innovative ways of engaging the public with a focus on bringing them into compliance with the Environmental Protection Act.

 

By: Stacy Carmichael

 

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