Over the past two weeks, a series of articles has appeared in the Kaieteur News about Chinese logging company Bai Shan Lin’s operations in Guyana. The articles accuse Bai Shan Lin of operating illegally. The Guyana Forestry Commission responds that “there is no circumventing of Guyana’s logging laws by Bai Shan Lin”.
The first in the series of articles published by the Kaieteur News, dated 7 August 2014, has the headline, “Bai Shan Lin circumvents Guyana’s logging laws…Ships Billions $$$$ of high priced logs monthly” and it ran on the front cover of the newspaper:
Kaietuer News wrote that,
Even though Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc. is yet to actually receive a logging licence, the company has teamed up with four companies in joint ventures to export billions of dollars worth in timber monthly.
James Singh, Guyana’s Commissioner of Forests, responded to what he describes as “this unprofessional article”. Singh argues that,
The GFC has very robust and functional systems, procedures and guidelines which all forest sector companies are audited against; if there are any breaches to these, appropriate action is taken based on the findings of a thorough investigation and in accordance with the forest law.
The following day, Kaieteur News ran a report of a visit to Kwakwani, Region 10, which included this quotation from a resident of the area:
“One thing you can’t stop dem Chinese with; dem does wuk hard. Is nah easy fuh prepare all them logs fuh shipment. You got to cut it, mark it and all duh. Me husband use to wuk with dem. Don’t think is no li’l operation. Dem does cut down everything dem lay eye pon.”
On 8 August 2014, another Kaieteur News article was based on an interview with Region 10 Chairman, Sharma Solomon. He explained that it is difficult to assess the total area of land that Bai Shan Lin is logging:
“There is a new arrangement that exists in the Region now where many associations and many loggers with concessions are in essence sub-leasing.”
On 10 August 2014, Joseph Harmon, Shadow Minister of Public Works from Guyana’s opposition political party, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), called on Guyana’s President to sack the Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud. Harmon referred to Guyana’s REDD agreement with Norway:
“The recent activities of Bai Shan Lin have compromised the ‘services’ that the Guyana rainforest is meant to provide and is hindering our economic development. So has the agreement between Guyana and Norway been brushed under the carpet for a much more beneficial package?”
On the same day, Kaietuer News quoted an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official as saying that Bai Shan Lin has no permission to harvest or log. Currently Bai Shan Lin is having meetings with EPA, regarding “scoping”. The Guyana Forestry Commission denies that Bai Shan Lin is logging without the necessary approvals.
In June 2014, Bai Shan Lin submitted an application to the Environmental Protection Agency for permission for a large scale logging and sawmill operation. That application is still pending, according to Kaieteur News.
Another Kaieteur News article on 10 August 2014 looks at the equipment that Bai Shan Lin imported duty free to Guyana, including more than 200 hauler trucks, 50 bulldozers, and “a significant number of loaders”. The article also notes that the timber export figures have increased:
A look at export figures, unofficially supplied, indicated that for the first half of 2013, some 30,000 cubic meters of timber products were exported. For the first half of 2014, this figure rose to over 50,000 cubic meters.
On 12 August 2014, Kaieteur News reported on a helicopter flyover the previous day of Kwakwani and Ituni areas, Region 10:
From the air, it was an unbelievable sight. As far as the eye could see, at a location east of the Kwakwani bauxite operations, the logs were piled high, ready to be placed in containers. At least four 40-foot containers were being loaded at the time.
Kaieteur News published a series of photographs of the log sorting yard near Kwakwani:
The next day, Kaieteur News published another interview with Sharma Solomon, Region 10 Chairman. Solomon talked about “the exploitation, disruption and destruction of Region 10”.
On 17 August 2014, Kaieteur News published an article based on interviews with Amerindians in Kwebanna Village who worked for Bai Shan Lin, but who had not been paid.
In several of the articles about Bai Shan Lin, Kaieteur News refers to a 2012 presentation by Chu Wenze, chairman of Bai Shan Lin, that outlines his company’s plans for logging Guyana’s forests. The presentation was posted on REDD-Monitor in April 2013. A map in the presentation shows seven logging concessions covering a total area of 960,000 hectares.
In his response to the Kaieteur News, Commissioner of Forests James Singh states that Bai Shan Lin has “legal access to 627,072 ha”:
- 344,849 ha as State Forest Exploratory Permits (SFEP’s) – an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA); a Forest Inventory (FI), and a Business Plan have to be submitted to the satisfaction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and GFC before a Timber Sales Agreement (TSA) is granted which allows for full scale harvesting in accordance with GFC guidelines is approved
- 274,053 ha as Timber Sales Agreement Joint Venture Agreements
- 8,170 ha as State Forest Permissions
The articles in the Kaieteur News have raised serious questions about large scale logging operations in Region 10 and increasing timber exports from Guyana. Bai Shan Lin and the Guyana Forestry Commission argue that these operations are legal.
But the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc has put out a statement asking for Bai Shan Lin’s contracts to be made public and to stop the logging operations.
In response to the Kaieteur News articles, Bai Shan Lin states that,
We intend to employ thousands of Guyanese once we are given an opportunity to realise our planned projects. We have successfully promoted species, which were never before marketed commercially. We entered the sector with the aim to contribute positively to the development of forestry in Guyana through injection of financial and capital resources and by further building Guyana’s export markets for forest products.
Which sounds a lot like business as usual and very little like reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The industrial scale logging makes a mockery of Guyana’s much trumpeted US$250 million REDD deal with Norway.