All CEP Technical Reports
CEP Technical Report No. 36 1996: Status of Protected
Area Systems in the Wider Caribbean Region
Area 214,970 sq. km.
Protected Areas (PAs)
|PAs with Marine or Coastal Zones||Extension|
|World Heritage Sites||0||0||0|
Policy and Legislation
Guyana gained full independence from Britain in 1966, and the present constitution was instigated in 1979. The National Environmental Policy was formulated and approved in 1990 by the Cabinet. The policy states that, in order to conserve and improve the environment, the government of Guyana will endeavour to maintain ecosystems and ecological processes essential for the functioning of the biosphere. The government will endeavour to preserve biological diversity, and to observe the principle of optimum sustainable yield in the use of renewable natural resources ecosystems on land and in the sea. In addition, the government will ensure that conservation is treated as an integral part of the planning and implementation of development activities (Griffith, pers. comm., 1992). As a policy, Guyana aims to set aside not more than 10% of its forested areas (4 million ha) as a protected area system (Black, pers. comm., 1992).
Guyana participates in the FAO Tropical Forest Action Plan (TFAP), an international strategy to promote the development of forestry sectors in participating countries, allowing greater contribution to national economy while maintaining conservation principles. The National Forestry Action Plan was completed in 1989 by the Guyana Forestry Commission and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and interpreted the global designs of the TFAP into specific national needs (GFC/CIDA 1989). The plan comprises several projects, including a revision of forestry policy and legislation, and developing a protected area system (GFC/CIDA 1989, Hanif and Ravndal 1988). However, the National Forestry Action Plan does not take mangrove forests into account as it does not consider them to be part of the state forest domain. No measures have been taken for their management or conservation (Hussain 1990). Information on the extent of implementation of this plan is currently not available.
Two distinct policies regarding forestry use currently exist, one drafted by the State Planning Commission and the other by the Guyana Forestry Commission in 1988 (GFC/CIDA 1989, Hanif and Ravndal 1988). From the perspective of the State Planning Commission, forest resources are to be used to provide a source of food and materials and emphasis is placed on increasing exploitation without taking sustainable use into consideration (GFC/CIDA 1989, King, pers. comm., 1991).
The national forestry policy proposed by the GFC includes measures: to protect certain forested land with the objective of conserving genetic resources and promoting research; to protect mangrove forests; to establish a wildlife reserve and a bird sanctuary within the state forest; and to maintain natural habitat to protect endangered species. Increased forest resource exploitation is also emphasised, but in compliance with the protection objectives (Hanif and Ravndal 1988). None of the objectives of the national forest policy has been implemented. Although some conservation measures are incorporated into the National Forestry Action Plan as proposed projects (GFC/CIDA 1989, Hanif and Ravndal 1988).
The Forest Act, 1973 defines the state forest and gives regulations for issuing leases and sales agreements for forest resources exploitation. The Forestry Service is declared responsible for implementing these regulations. The Guyana Forestry Commission Act No. 2, 1979 provided for the establishment of the Guyana Forestry Commission as the organisation responsible for administering forested land within state forest. It replaced the Forestry Department.
Three pieces of legislation deal with protected areas. The National Parks Commission Act, 1977 gives the National Parks Commission, within the Ministry of Public Works, responsibility for designating, maintaining and regulating the use of national parks and other protected areas (Hanif and Ravndal 1988). A national park is established by publishing a notice in the newspaper following consultation with the local government authority. No legislation exists to provide for the establishment of protected area categories other than national park or biosphere reserve (Hanif and Ravndal 1988). The other two pieces of legislation are the 1973 Laws of Guyana, Chapter 20:02 which provides for the establishment of Kaieteur National Park, and the Draft Guyana Biosphere Reserves Bill, 1983.
The land ownership rights of native communities was recognised by Act No. 6, 1976 which describes 65 areas to be set aside for the exclusive use of Amerindians (Persaud and Stewart 1988).
Legislation concerning environmental management and conservation is incomplete, and does not allow the objectives given in the national forestry policy to be carried out (GFC/CIDA 1989). No clearly defined regulations regarding natural resource use are stated in any legislation, and the relevant legal measures that do exist are not fully implemented owing to the lack of institutional capability (Hanif and Ravndal 1988, Persaud and Stewart 1988).
Three new legislative acts are currently in the process of being formulated; the Environmental Protection Bill, Fisheries Act, and the Wildlife Conservation Act. The Environmental Protection Bill reflects the underlying principles of the National Environmental Policy. It will provide for the preservation, protection and improvement of the environment, the prevention or control of pollution, and the assessment of the environmental impact of economic development and the sustainable use of natural resources (Griffith, pers. comm., 1992).
Conventions & Treaties
Amazon Co-operation Treaty, (ATC, 1978)
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992)
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, 1973)
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOS, 1982)
Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage, 1972)
Programmes & Associations
Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA, 1967)
Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP, 1981) and its Specially Protected Areas & Wildlife Programme (SPAW, 1990)
Latin American Network for Technical Co-operation in National Parks, Protected Areas & Wildlife (LAN-NPPAW)
UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB, 1972)
FAO Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP, 1985)
Lack of environmental legislation has precluded the development of an institutional framework to administer natural resources in a structured process. No organisation specifically undertakes the conservation or management of natural resources. A number of different governmental departments participate in activities concerning natural resources and forested areas, but only within their field of interest. This has resulted in a lack of co-ordination, and, in some cases, conflict of interest between organisations (GFC/CIDA 1989, Persaud and Stewart 1988). In total, four ministries, two institutions and one state corporation have natural resource management responsibilities to some extent (Hanif and Ravndal 1988).
The Guyana Forestry Commission was created in 1979 as part of the Ministry of Forests, and is the organisation responsible for administering forested land within the state forest. The GFC has been concerned almost exclusively with the administration of logging activities for the domestic and foreign market, and very little forest management is actually practised (Hanif and Ravndal 1988). In January 1989 the GFC was placed under the responsibility of the Guyana Natural Resources Agency (GNRA), an institute that has been concerned primarily with mining activities and only touched on environmental issues as far as they related to their interests (GFC/CIDA 1989). Inadequate funds, personnel and facilities have reduced the GFC's activities to the allocation of harvesting rights, the control of timber export, and revenue collection. It has been unable to implement the conservation measures given in the National Forestry Policy it formulated (GFC/CIDA 1989).
The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for administering state lands which comprises all land outside state forests, Amerindian land, and privately-owned land (GFC/CIDA 1989).
The Guyana Agency for Health Sciences Education, Environment and Food Policy (GAHEF) (previously the Ministry of Medical Health, Environment and Food Policy) is responsible for the development of national environmental policy, environmental monitoring, co-ordination and training. The Environmental Division within GAHEF, which currently has a staff of 11, was created in 1988 (Hanif and Ravndal 1988; Griffith, pers. comm., 1992). The main objectives of the Environmental Division are to develop environmental education programmes, and to monitor environmental activities of other organisations throughout the country. GAHEF is advised by an Advisory Environmental Council, chaired by the Executive Chairman of the GAHEF and has representatives from ministries and agencies which have some responsibility for the environment (Anon., n.d.).
The National Parks Commission, which presently falls within the GAHEF (Griffith, pers. comm., 1992), is responsible for maintaining all national parks, city recreational parks, the zoo, and botanical gardens in Georgetown. However, the Commission lacks the expertise to administer protected areas and has a very limited budget which restricts its activities (Hanif and Ravndal 1988).
The two teaching and research institutions involved with natural resource management are the University of Guyana, which is introducing a course in forestry management, and the Institute of Applied Science and Technology. The latter is the main research institute, with an Environmental Research and Information Unit providing advice to decision-makers regarding sustainable use of natural resources, conservation and management (Hanif and Ravndal 1988). A state corporation, Demerara Timbers Ltd. (formerly Demerara Woods Ltd.), is also involved in resource management. The corporation has recently completed a management plan for activities in its timber concession, which takes into consideration the possible environmental consequences of logging. The plan was completed with the assistance of TROPENBOS, a Dutch ecological study unit presently operating within Guyana (Griffith, pers. comm., 1992).
During 1988 the government changed its policy regarding non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and now supports their existence. There is currently one active NGO in Guyana, the Guyana Biodiversity Society which was formed in 1991 and is still in its infant stage (Griffith, pers. comm., 1992). No information is available concerning its activities.
The lack of a capable administrative structure severely restricts the implementation of environmental legislation. Many institutions lack clear policies regarding their responsibilities and function in natural resource management (Hanif and Ravndal 1988). A shortage of personnel is a problem for almost every sector, as the country has experienced large-scale emigration in recent years.
The country's one national park is under constant pressure from itinerant miners, who continue to exploit the mineral resources illegally (mainly gold and diamonds) from the streams and rivers. The larger forms of wildlife, both terrestrial and avian, have practically been exterminated by hunting parties which supply wild meat to dredging crews upstream of the waterfall (Hanif and Ravndal 1988).
The Programme for Sustainable Tropical Forestry in Guyana was proposed two years ago, but process has since been stalled due to lack of funds (Sullivan 1990). Recently, the programme which is due to run for five years, was adopted by the Global Environment Facility (a fund established by the World Bank and the UN Development Programme) (Pearce 1992). The programme has four main objectives, including: establishment and maintenance of a wilderness reserve in the center of the country; to maintain a segment of the forest in a pristine condition, to be zoned for scientific research; and establishment of an international research and training centre.
As part of the Tropical Forestry Action Plan, a proposal for the conservation of forest ecosystems was formulated by Hanif and Ravndal (1988). Among the recommendations made to improve protected area management was the transfer of such responsibilities from the National Parks Commission, under the Ministry of Communications and Works, to a new Protected Area Commission, under the Ministry of Medical Health, Environment and Food Policy. The Ministry of Communications and Works has since had its name altered to the Guyana Agency for Health Sciences Education, Environment and Food Policy (Griffith, pers. comm., 1992). Hanif and Ravndal (1988) further recommend that to clarify governmental policy the two existing forest policies should be incorporated into one.
Guyana consists of five main biogeographical regions: coastal plain; sandy rolling lands; tropical savannah; Pre-Cambrian lowlands; and the Pakarima mountain range (GFC/CIDA 1989, Persaud and Stewart 1988).
The coastal plain is a narrow alluvial belt and comprises around 5% of total land area. It runs the length of the coast and extends inland from 15 km to 60 km (Hilty 1982, Persaud and Stewart 1988). The plain lies between 0.5 m and 1.0 m below sea level, and is therefore subject to frequent flooding. Protection barriers have been erected along the coast since the days of Dutch colonisation in the late 16th century. Rainfall in the coastal region ranges from 2000 mm to 2500 mm. This is the most important agricultural region in the country, and over 90% of the population lives here (GFC/CIDA 1989, Hilty 1982, Hussain 1990). However, owing to the shifting of sand banks, large-scale erosion along the coast is taking place (Hussain 1990). Coastal ecosystems are also threatened by pollution and exploitation of critical resources such as mangroves (Hanif and Ravndal 1988).
Little information is available on the current extent of mangrove vegetation in the country, but mangroves once stretched along the entire length of the coast. There has been a serious depletion of mangroves in the past 30 years, due to the joint effect of natural causes such as wave action and human use for fuel (Hanif and Ravndal 1988, Hussain 1990). Mangrove vegetation could play an important role in protecting the coastal region against erosion, except where wave action is very intense and the width of the mangrove belt very narrow. Although the national forest policy makes provision for their protection and regeneration, mangrove vegetation is not considered part of the state forest, and no conservation measures have been implemented (Hussain 1990).
Just south of the coastal plain, in the north-east of the country, sandy rolling plains stretch inland (Persaud and Stewart 1988). This region is gently undulating and altitudes vary from 5 m-120 m above sea level, and vegetation types from savannah grasslands to forest. The white, sandy soil is permeable and low in nutrients, and forms the most vulnerable ecosystem in Guyana (Hilty 1982, Persaud and Stewart 1988).
Tropical savannah covers around 11% of total land area, extending in the west from the southern part of the sandy rolling plains to the Rio Branco savannahs of Brazil. The main grasslands are known as the Rupununi savannahs, characterised by intense dry periods (Hanif and Ravndal 1988, Hilty 1982). Two different savannah types may be distinguished within the Rupununi region: the north savannah, associated with a 6,000 m deep rift valley; and the south savannah, associated with the Pre-Cambrian plain, and interspersed with rock formations up to 900 m (Persaud and Stewart 1988).
The Pre-Cambrian lowland region extends from the coastal plain throughout the length of the country to the Akarai mountains in the south. The region is gently undulating and varies from 90-120 m in the north to 180-210 m in the south, with intruding ridges 300-900 m high which form waterfalls when crossed by rivers. The vegetation is dominated by tropical rain forest (Persaud and Stewart 1988).
The Pakaraima mountain region was created by the uplift of the Roraima formation and elevation varies from 500 m in the south of the range to the highest peak Mt. Roraima (2,773 m) in the north. The Pakaraima mountains, Pre-Cambrian lowlands, and tropical savannah together comprise the interior region and account for 84% of total land area (Hilty 1982). The interior is very sparsely populated, principally by native Amerindian communities, which total around 5% of the population of the whole country (Persaud and Stewart 1988).
Around 76% of total land area remains forested (Persaud and Stewart 1988, King, pers. comm., 1991). The extent of intact natural ecosystems results more from the low population density and lack of population pressure than from any systematic conservation planning (GFC/CIDA 1989, Fuller, pers. comm., 1991). Development plans for the near future and large investments by multi-national timber and mineral corporations threaten to reduce the forest cover drastically (GFC/CIDA 1989, Lewis 1991).
There is only one legally established protected area, Kaieteur National Park (58,559 ha). A proposal exists to extend the park to 400,000 ha (Black, pers. comm., 1992). This is controversial as it will compete with mining activities. There are no permanent park guards to prevent migration into the park, and the wildlife and ecosystems are under constant threat from the activities of gold and diamond miners (Hanif and Ravndal 1988, Fuller, pers. comm., 1991).
A new road from Brazil to the Guyana coast, which will pass close to the park was due to be opened by the end of 1992. It is feared that the road will pose a serious threat to the park. The government is handing out logging licenses to landless farmers and gold miners in many forests which neighbour the park. It is feared that the park will inevitably be invaded.
Sixty-five Amerindian reservations have been set aside for native communities (1.39 million ha). Amerindian land is managed and regulated by the resident communities, and no formal distinction between production and protection areas is made (Persaud and Stewart 1988, Black, pers. comm., 1991). The Forestry Action Plan includes proposals to train Amerindians in natural resource management, and to encourage the commercial production of non-timber forest products in both native and non-native communities (GFC/CIDA 1898).
Major threats to forest ecosystems arise from logging, uncontrolled fires, soil erosion and over exploitation of wildlife resources (Hanif and Ravndal 1988). However, more than twice the total land allotted to Amerindians has been conceded to foreign organisations for logging (Wood, pers. comm., 1991).
A report dating from 1980 identifies two areas suitable for establishment as biosphere reserves, and a further two as World Heritage Sites (Putney 1980). However, there is no evidence that these recommendations have been acted on. An area of 300,000 ha of virgin tropical rain forest has been set aside as the Commonwealth and Government of Guyana Iwokrama Rain Forest Project. Part of which will be kept as a wilderness preserve and part for research into sustainable use. This area currently lies within state forest but will be excluded from it by legislation in due course (Black, pers. comm., 1992).
Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), 1 Water Street, PO Box 1029, GEORGETOWN (Tel: 2672715; Tlx: GY 2262; Cable: Wallaba)
Guyana Agency for Health Sciences Education, the Environment and Food Policy, Ministry of Medical Education, Environment and Food Policy, Liliendaal, GREATER GEORGETOWN (Tel/Fax: 592 57523)
Guyana Natural Resources Agency, 41 Brickdam and Boyle Place, Stabroek, PO Box 1074, GEORGETOWN (Tel: 56720, 66549, 56111; Tlx: 3010 GNRA GY)
Anon. (N.d.) Environmental Policy of Guyana. 8 pp. GFC/CIDA (1989). National forestry action plan 1990-2000. Guyana Forestry Commission and Canadian International Development Agency, Kingston, Georgetown. 77 pp.
Hanif, M. and Ravndal, A.V. (1988) Tropical Forestry Action Plan - Sector plan for the conservation of tropical forest ecosystems. Institute of Applied Science and Technology and United Nationals Development Programme, Georgetown. Draft. 32 pp.
Hilty, S.L. (Ed.) (1982) Environmental profile on Guyana. Department of State and Agency for International Development, Washington DC, USA. 114 pp.
Hussain, M.Z. (1990) Restoration and expansion of the mangrove belt in Guyana. A report prepared for the Hydraulics Division of the Ministry of Agriculture of Guyana, by the FAO, Rome, Italy. 31 pp.
Lewis, D. (1991) The rape of the rainforest. The Guardian. 1 November. p.33.
Pearce, F. (1992) Race to save Guyana's rainforests. New Scientist 1813:15.
Persaud, C. and Stewart, M. (1988) Tropical Forestry Action Plan - Forestry and land use. Ministry of Works and Canadian International Development Agency, Georgetown. Draft. 32 pp.
Putney, A.D. (1980) Guyana. Identification of Potential Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites Natural). Report prepared for the Government of Guyana by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. 43 pp.
Sullivan, F. (1990) Proactive conservation in Guyana. WWF Reports, August/September. p.10-p.12.
ANNEX I: LEGAL INSTRUMENTS
ANNEX II: GUYANA PROTECTED AREAS LIST
|Name of area||IUCN & National Mgmt. Categories||Presence of Marine or Coastal Zones||Area
NP= National Park
Top of Page