The Bai Shan Lin affair…

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Commissioner of the Guyana Forestry Commission, Mr. James Singh

Forestry Commissioner dismisses as ‘false’ overharvesting claims
–blames misconception on ‘lack of understanding’ of forest procedures

THE Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), responding to “mass allegations and misinformation” regarding the operations of Chinese logging company Bai Shan Lin (BSL), has “set the record straight” in order to dispel the many rumours circulating about this company.
At a news conference held yesterday at the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) in Kingston, Georgetown, Commissioner James Singh put paid to the many claims that BSL has been involved in exploitation of Guyana’s forestry resources. He noted that much of the information being circulated in the press “is as a result of a lack of understanding” of the procedures in forestry.
He even disclosed that Bai Shan Lin (BSL) has an “unutilised quota” for its concessionary holdings coming out of joint ventures with other companies.
“The notion that Bai Shan Lin is overharvesting and clear-felling is absolutely untrue and false,” Singh contended.
He contended that monitoring and evaluation officers on the ground — some 220 forest rangers — have aided the GFC in monitoring “very effectively and efficiently” the operations of all concessionaires; and this, of course, includes the Chinese logging giant BSL.

ALL LOGS NOT OWNED BY BSL
While denouncing popular images published by sections of the media, which attempt to show sprawling lands with logs awaiting transport, Commissioner Singh made clear that logs which are harvested in certain regions are “stockpiled at approved sites in or near the forest location.”
He contended that many of the images are those of log markets which house logs of close to 14 concessionaires. Going the proverbial extra mile to be rid of aspersions, the Commissioner stressed that “more than one producer [is] stockpiling (logs) there”, referring to the image of sprawling lands published in the local press, which erroneously cited BSL as the owner.

LACK OF UNDERSTANDING
“A lot of the stuff that is in the papers is as a result of a lack of understanding of what forestry operations entail…[or] probably not enough research being done”, Singh declared as he gave an in-depth presentation to members of the press.
He bemoaned that publishing of misinformation is not restricted to Guyana, but “affects the markets of Guyana.” Driving home his remarks, the Commissioner rhetorically questioned, “Who are the ones that suffer?” He answered his question thus: “The community forestry operators…the small operators and the TSA holders.”
He directed media personnel to the Forestry Commission’s website for further clarity in times of uncertainty, even as he bemoaned the fast-pace cyberspace reporting and the way misinformation is callously published.
Questioning the integrity of some sections of the media, the Commissioner said, “This, to me, is not professionalism.” He urged that responsibility be exercised in placing information in the media, saying that it affects the lives of others.

OUT OF PLACE
In his closing remarks, Commissioner Singh asserted: “I don’t think it’s the role of any newspaper or any media house to be doing that (publishing inaccurate information). I think the role of the newspaper is to highlight the real facts, and not engage in speculation and rumour-mongering, because it does a disservice to the country and a disservice to people who depend on the forestry sector for a living.”
He extended the proverbial olive branch to the media, cautioning persons to be properly prepared before they present information to the public, and to contact the Forestry Commission for clarification in situations of doubt.

CONCURRENCE
Also present at the news conference were members of the logging community, who made small gestures to indicate that they agreed with the points raised by Commissioner Singh.
The Guyana Chronicle caught up with one such member of the logging community, who identified herself as Assistant Secretary for the Rockstone Loggers Association, Ms. Celestine Peters.
Questioned how the aspersions have affected the logging community, she replied: “They are trying to say that the GFC is doing the wrong things, and that we are condoning it too; but these are laws that we have to abide with, even at the small loggers’ level.
“So it would affect us, because if the big ones are not adhering to (the laws), then why should the small ones adhere to (them)?”
She also disclosed that there are 28 loggers falling under the umbrella of her organisation from Rockstone in Region 10 (Upper Demerara/ Upper Berbice).