Georgetown, Guyana – (January 23, 2018Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, yesterday, convened the first National Hydrographic Committee (NHC) to coordinate the sustainable management of Guyana’s sea and river resources. The  meeting, which was held at the Guyana Lands and Surveys (GL&SC) Boardroom, sought  to bring together  agencies such as the Guyana Coast Guard, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Guyana Forestry Commission, the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) and others  to ensure that a coordinated approach is taken to the protection and the management of resources.

Minister Harmon, in his remarks, said that there are currently several Government Ministries and agencies, which share responsibility for the same sector, leading to duplication of projects and a waste of resources. The convening of the NHC therefore, aims to reduce these occurrences and establish a framework within which all the connected agencies can operate.

“We have a situation where sometimes laws collide with regard to the work of various agencies…You are going to have conflicts and everyone has a responsibility to do something and we have seen this in a number of areas. I have asked the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission to look at harmonising some of the laws as it relates to the management of our natural patrimony because if you go through the various portions, different organisations have the same responsibility for the same activity. It is important for us to recognise this and to come to a point where we can work with the law as it is, until such time that we can [make] some changes. This area of hydrographic work is one such area that when you examine the law carefully, you see that several agencies and organisations have responsibility for hydrographic surveys and the management of the waterways in that regard,” he said.

Noting that it is the most practicable solution at this time, Minister Harmon said that in establishing this NHC, a structure has been put in place, which recognises that responsibility rests with some of the organisations. However, in the interest of moving forward, a mechanism has to be found through which all of the agencies can cooperate and work as one unit.

“Ultimately it is the same resources we have to work with and we have to work together as one people under one administration and if we do not do this then we would find difficulty in attracting resources… I have been advised that this is the first time that such a committee [has been] established and as an independent country we have to project togetherness when we deal with international agencies. This is especially required at this time as we pursue a ‘green’ agenda and with discovery of vast amounts of oil and gas and our decision to exploit those reserves in the near future necessitates the establishment of mechanisms and arrangements to ensure that the extraction of oil and gas with minimum effect on our shoreline and waterways,” he said.

In all of these matters, Minister Harmon said that hydrographic data is crucial in the planning and setting up of regulatory arrangements with regard to the ‘green’ agenda and disaster preparedness and response. The Minister of State said that there should be a specially designated department, which can deal with that area of study.

“Specifically, the NHC, when established, must highlight the significance and importance of its activities, that is, the safety of navigation, the protection of the marine environment, coastal zone management, defence and security and resources exploration. The Committee must also seek to increase its importance in the public’s view of the seas and waterways. In order to do this, the Committee should seek to address a number of issues, including the dedication of a department in the GLSC to give effect to this mandate so that it is not just a Committee that meets and go away,” he said.

To this end, Commissioner of the GL&SC Mr. Trevor Benn said that the Commission has already undertaken a review of its existing Surveys Department with the aim of adding the Hydrographic component to it. “We have begun a process of a review of our Surveys Division to take stock of our new demands and to make it more relevant. In this regard, it is my hope that we can have the Hydrographic section developed and we have already identified staff for this. Therefore, in the coming weeks, we expected to roll out some training programmes and so on for the staff,” he said.