-President Granger reassures conservation entity of continued gov’t support
By Alva Solomon
THIRTY-years after former President, the Late Hugh Desmond Hoyte, gifted to the world one million hectares of Guyana’s pristine rainforest for conservation in the form of the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation, President David Granger on Saturday evening assured the centre of the APNU+AFC government’s continued support.
The President made the gesture at the Umana Yana during the 30th Anniversary celebrations of the conservation body. While addressing a gathering which included Fourth Vice-President and Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Sydney Allicock , Iwokrama’s CEO Dane Gobin , conservationists and other public officials, President Granger said that the centre is “here to stay.”
After providing a background of the value of the country’s flora and
fauna, the Head of State said that Iwokrama remains relevant to the
national responses to local and global environmental threats.”It is a
part of the solution to the adverse effects of climate change such as
extreme weather, rising sea levels, precipitous levels of biodiversity
loss and diminishing fresh water supplies to which the world is seeking
The President described the centre as ‘immense, impressive, irreplaceable” providing priceless ecological and environmental services to the earth and remains a vital element in the protection of the world’s biodiversity.
He said that Iwokrama is central to Guyana’s transition to becoming a
green state, adding that the centre is part of the country’s heartland.
The President told the gathering that the conservation entity must “change” in order to survive, noting that it can no longer subsist entirely on the old covenant which played a pivotal role in its lifespan.
He said that it is part of the national patrimony and Guyanese must bear the greatest responsibility for the centre’s future development, without cutting the “umbilical” cord to the international community.
He said that “change is imperative and indispensable “for improvement
as he added that the centre will not survive unless it adapts to the
challenges imposed by climate change.
The President, in his address, told the gathering that Iwokrama will not be allowed to become a “lifeless monument or a museum, or worst, a timber grant or a gold mine.”
He said a new covenant must be crafted to ensure its future, adding that it would be about education and research rather than entertainment and recreation. He said it must become a “school house” for students to study the sciences.
The president said that with its rich bio-diversity, the centre is pivotal to “positioning of our economy”, one to a green, growth pathway. He said that the pursuit of sustainable development cannot be achieved unless there is an unobstructed obligation to the protection of Guyana’s biodiversity, adding that it can teach the world lessons on biodiversity.
He said it is the government’s intention, with the support of
international partners, to make Iwokrama into a world class institute
for biodiversity research and an academy of excellence to serve the
educational needs of Guyanese children.
He said one of his first moves when he assumed office was to make the Fairview Aerodrome safe and expand its length for ease of travel into the area.
On a sour note, the President said one of his more depressing trips over the past four years was a visit to the University of Guyana’s Centre for Biodiversity. He said he was almost reduced to tears by the state of that entity. ”I saw cemetery rather than a laboratory for diversity,” adding that it was a disservice for the nation to allow such neglect.
He said Iwokrama will not suffer that state, adding that the new covenant for the centre will be unveiled during the decade of development which commences in 2020.
“The decade will also witness Guyana’s honouring its commitments to place another two million hectares under conservation in accordance with our national and determining commitments under the Paris Agreement,” the President said.
Minister Allicock, in his address to those gathered, noted that the relationship built between Iwokrama and the hinterland communities “is very significant.”
He said it gives the residents a greater role in understanding what the area can offer to the world, including tourism. “It is the value of utilizing or exploiting the national resources without too much harm,” he added.
He also noted that on Iwokrama’s anniversary, it is a time to reflect and consider what lie ahead.
Iwokrama’s CEO noted that the centre, since its establishment,
continues to enjoy the support of successive governments and
international bodies as well as Britian’s Prince Charles, who recently
renewed his patronage to the centre.
He described Iwokrama as an environmental flagship for Guyana and the Commonwealth and he noted that it remains the most studied research forest in the region.
Iwokrama was birthed out of the 1989 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In that year, President Hoyte offered the 371,681 hectares of rainforest to the international community for research.
In 1995, an Iwokrama Agreement was signed by the late former President Cheddi Jagan and the Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku. Then in 1996, the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development Act (1996) was passed by the Parliament of Guyana.
The legislation oversaw the establishment of the centre to manage the forest area and to promote the conservation and the sustainable and equitable use of tropical rainforests in a manner that will lead to lasting ecological, economic and social benefits to the people of Guyana and to the world in general.
Over the years, Iwokrama has been doing just that in all aspects of its operations from tourism, research, community development and even sustainable forestry.