Alternative funding being negotiated for protected areas system
Linda Rutherford Guyana Chronicle February 2000
The government is in the process of negotiating alternative funding for the proposed National Protected Areas System (NPAS), not as a single project as initially intended but in a piecemeal fashion under the National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP).
This was confirmed this week by Presidential Adviser on environmental matters, Mr Navin Chandarpal.
Though cautious about naming institutions, he said the government was "now talking to different donor agencies" about supporting different aspects of the project under the NBAP.
He conceded that the change of plan was due to a setback encountered just as the Guyana Government was about to enter into negotiations with the World Bank about funding the project.
The setback at reference was a letter sent the government by the World Bank imposing new conditions after being lobbied by the Amerindian People's Association (APA) about settling outstanding land rights issues before entering into any such arrangement.
Preparatory work on the project had begun since 1994 and had reached the stage where negotiations were scheduled to have commenced sometime in July 1998.
The sum involved was close to US$5M in grant funding.
The issue again surfaced during discussions in the opening session of an inaugural environmental media seminar on Monday when President Bharrat Jagdeo expressed disappointment that Guyana had to date been unable to secure World Bank funding for the project because of sectoral differences.
"I am disappointed as a Guyanese that we would lose grant funding simply because...we couldn't settle what I consider (to be) minor issues when the overall project was to conserve and preserve", the President said.
"I don't want to say politics, because I am not sure whether it is, but sectoral interest shouldn't have been put before national interest", he added.
Chandarpal, who was present at the time, explained that what the government had hoped to achieve, had it secured the World Bank funding, was to rapidly develop the capacity to, first of all, make decisions on how to agree on what areas should be designated a protected area, under what conditions and to develop management systems.
"It would have been a comprehensive approach that would have covered all areas and given a national perspective to decision-making", he said.
Noting that what eventually transpired was a classic example "of how we should not work as a country", Mr Jagdeo said: "Here it is that all we're seeking to do is to protect the area; not to give it out as a mining lease, for logging or any other thing.
"We thought that it would be non-controversial because you're protecting the area".
He said it is because of all this controversy that has arisen that "today, we have practically lost the funding..."
Contending that he was still baffled as to what went wrong with the World Bank deal, President Jagdeo challenged the media to engage in some investigative journalism to get to the bottom of the issue.
Meanwhile, what the government has since done is to move ahead with the development of the Kaieteur National Park and on the portion of the Iwokrama station at Kurupukari which has been earmarked for a wilderness preserve.
Discussions are also under way about making Shell Beach and the Kanuku Mountains protected areas.