President David Granger: Well Bartica, it’s always good to be back here where it all started. As I told you when I was campaigning, I dream about this place. I dream about Bartica. When I got married forty-five years ago, I brought my wife here on what used to be called ‘The Golden Beach’. My first child took her first gulp of water. I wouldn’t bring her back now to take a gulp of water at The Golden Beach but after you all finish this campaign; I will bring her back because you all are going to clean up the water and clean up the beach.
But it’s always good to be back in Bartica. So you know why I came. You know why all the Cabinet Ministers are here. You know why we are gathered here today because once again, Bartica is going to take the lead. Bartica is going to take the lead in making Guyana a ‘green’ country again, not only the gateway to the hinterland but the gateway to a new technology.
Madam Chairperson, Minister of Agriculture, Vice President, Ministers, Regional Chairman Gordon Bradford; REO, Regional Democratic Councillors, Presidential Advisor on the Environment, school children:
I was so happy that school children greeted me along the way. I asked them what they were doing at school on Saturday morning – they said they came to plant trees. Oh, that made me so happy! Non-governmental organisations; I saw Lions. There are three lions. No tigers, no jaguars but three lions. More? Alright! Members of civil society, fellow residents of Bartica, let me start by congratulating the Honourable Noel Holder, Minister of Agriculture and the officials in the Ministry of Agriculture for making this event possible. Congratulations to the Ministry of Agriculture, congratulations Noel.
Let me also congratulate the Regional Democratic Council in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region for bringing out thousands of supporters. I’m sure there must be thousands somewhere; not here today but I know Gordon did his best to mobilise the residents of this town.
I call you a town because next year April, you will be a town. That’s a promise. As I promised to come back and I came back, I promise you’re going to be a town and you’re going to be a town. But let me tell you one thing: when we talk about National Tree Day, this makes good economic sense. Bartica has over fifteen thousand residents, let’s call it three thousand households, but let us say we have three thousand households and about five persons living in each household. Now the Minister of Agriculture told me that if you have one breadfruit tree, a mature breadfruit tree, that breadfruit tree will bear three hundred and fifty pounds of breadfruit in one year. You know what that means? It means that Bartica could become the breadfruit capital of the whole Caribbean. A million pounds of bread fruit every year from Bartica alone. That is possible with this National Tree Day. When your baby’s born, you must give the baby breadfruit pap. When you go liming there by the street corner, you must have breadfruit chips.
But fellow residents of Bartica, we are participating in a transformative event not only to transform Bartica but to transform your lives, to transform the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region and to transform this country. Bartica is going to lead the way. We sing in our National Anthem “Green Land of Guyana” and that is my mission, to make Guyana a ‘green’ land again. And this is going to be a national annual event that the first Saturday of Agriculture Month every year we are going to have a National Tree Day. And future Chairmen of Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region will get the opportunity to bring thousands and thousands of Barticians here to share out plants and to make this the ‘greenest’ town, the cleanest town in the whole country.
We want to see a tree in every yard. No old car, no junk, a tree in every yard. We want to see trees in your farms; we want to see trees along the streets, lining the streets. We want to see trees in all the communities in this great region, the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region. We want to see trees everywhere. We want to see Cuyuni- Mazaruni Region making a contribution to making the whole country ‘green’. The entire country will look to Bartica for this ‘green’ revolution, this ‘green’ initiative.
National Tree Day therefore, is not an ornamental event. It is an economic event, it is an environmental event but it is an integral part of our Government’s policy to create a ‘green’ economy. This ‘green’ economy must involve every one of you. That is what made me so happy to see the school children here this morning; it must involve every citizen, every household, and every community.
We want Bartica to be a model town but it must also be a model town for the environment; it must also be a model town for energy; it must also be a model town for ecology and we want to work with the non-governmental oganisations, with the Regional Democratic Council, with you as private citizens, with the miners to make sure that this revolution doesn’t falter, that we continue to show the Caribbean, to show the continent, what we mean by having a ‘green’ economy.
Today you lead the way for a ‘green’ tomorrow. This is part of our overall plan towards the long term development of this country. A ‘green’ economy, as you have already heard, is aimed at your long- term wellbeing. It will reduce social inequalities, it will promote sustainable environmental practices and this morning, I want to lay out five steps, five rules, five stages of this ‘green’ economy.
Sustainable Exploitation of Our Natural Resources
First of all, right here we must learn to promote the sustainable exploitation of our natural resources. Sometimes when you fly over some areas of this Region Seven, you’d believe that the country has abscess, sores, boils, cancer and eczema. Some of the areas that are mined-out look bad. It means that we are not practicing sustainable exploitation of our natural resources.
We must have alongside mining:
• A programme for reforestation,
• A programme for solid waste management
• A programme for the disposal of all these toxic chemicals
Bartica suffered twenty years ago when there was a terrible accident up river. You have to be the watchdogs of your environment, to ensure that there are no more environmental accidents brought about because of poor practices, the exploitation of natural resources. Hardly a week passes that you don’t hear about some cave-in, you don’t hear about some turbidity. Turbidity is a long word meaning nasty water, the water is dirty; it looks like chocolate when you flying over and we must ensure that our miners use sustainable practices, environmentally sound practices, to ensure that even though we have to break the egg to get the omelette; we don’t have to mess up the whole environment in doing so.
We all know that gold is subject to market fluctuation and right now lots of miners are finding it hard, but when the prices are high; you must insist that they employ sound environmental practices. When they mine-out an area it could be replanted, not only in good times but also in bad times. Let us make sure that this country is left in a condition that we’d like to hand it over to our children because we can’t take this where we are going. We are only the trustees; we are only the custodians of the environment.
Just as we got it from our fore parents, we must pass it on to our grandchildren and that is why we have announced that there will be a Sovereign Wealth Fund, so even if you make a dollar, well nowadays, a dollar doesn’t have value, even if you make a thousand dollars, you will put aside something in something called the Sovereign Wealth Fund, so that your children will never be poor again. Whatever we earn from gold or diamonds or timber, we must put aside some bit in the Sovereign Wealth Fund. Oil is coming. Maduro smell the oil but it is your oil; yours and your ‘pickney’. So we have to keep, don’t worry with the cuirass, we’re going to get more cuirass, but we can’t get more oil, so we have to protect our natural resources.
The second rule that you must follow in Bartica, is that you have to ensure in this ‘green’ economy, you have to protect the environment to make sure that the miners who are working in the pits, in the mines, in the rivers, are kept safe from sudden death. We must ensure that they don’t dump waste into the rivers. Many of our Indigenous peoples depend on rivers for drinking water, for bathing, for washing their clothes, for swimming and we must make sure that that water remains, as far as humanly possible, we keep that water clean. We keep our communities clean.
Ask Mr. Gordon Bradford. As soon as he said “the Regatta”, I said, ‘make sure you have bins; make sure you have black plastic bags’. I don’t want to see any Styrofoam when I land at Bartica Stelling.
President David Granger: Thank you for clapping; thank you for your applause. When I land at Bartica Stelling, I must not see plastic and Styrofoam. When I land at ‘The Golden Beach’; I mustn’t see plastic and Styrofoam and when I’m coming down from the airport, I don’t want to see plastics.
We have to have a good solid waste programme, and this is rule number two. You have to ensure that solid waste is carefully disposed of and I hope that in the weeks to come, we will be able to introduce recycling practices so that all of your plastics could be recycled and used for other proposes; all your paper can be recycled and used for other proposes. Let me tell the shopkeepers, the time will come very soon, when you wouldn’t be able to see Styrofoam. You’ll have to smuggle Styrofoam in your girdle to bring it in to Guyana. Well, that’s the only way Styrofoam would come into this country. When you go to buy food, it will be in cardboard [boxes] because the cardboard will [degrade]; it could be destroyed, but Styrofoam stays forever. So that is rule number two.
Promoting Sustainable Energy
Rule number three is to promote sustainable energy. You see this thing that is burning that got you all so hot? It is free, but it is energy. The sun is energy. This watch I have here, all I have to do is put it in the sun here and it starts to work, it is a solar watch. I don’t have wind it up; I don’t have to put in battery; it’s is a solar watch. As long as you have sunlight this watch will work.
And this is my promise to you, when I came back here after elections; this is the first place I came to say, thank you, after the elections. People are always asking why I always go to Bartica. I say, “Why do you think? I Love Bartica, but let me tell you this, your school, your hospital, your restaurant, your police station, your short time place, everywhere must get solar energy, solar light. We’re using too much gasoline, too much dieseline. Much of the energy we are using could be generated by sustainable means, by sun, by water, by biogas, by wind, so let us promote the sustainable energy initiative.
Solar panels are not little toys or trinkets you give people at Christmas time. I want to see a whole solar farm at Bartica, generating light for all these 3,000 households, huge farms; huge wind farms, not one solar panel, a huge farm, so when I come back to the schools I will see I huge farm pushing the light, pushing the computers and making sure that we do not have to bring fossil fuels, like gasoline, dieseline and kerosene back into this community. This is old technology, Bartica. It is not new. Years ago, as a young officer, you go on patrol and the battery run down, all you do is open a solar panel and recharge the battery and you just keep on keeping on because the sun can generate a form of energy which you can use without using fuel.
All along our coast, well you all don’t have a coast here, you’ve got a river, but you still get breeze. The wind can generate electricity; the sun can generate electricity. So let us think outside the box. Don’t just think about barrels of fuel, barrels of oil. Maybe the Venezuelans are happy but you will be happy when you get sustainable energy from sun, wind and water, which you have in abundance.
Promotion of sound Ecological Services
Rule number four is that you must promote sound ecological services. These rain forests that you have, as the Vice President and other speakers have said, are the lungs of the earth. You may not believe it, but we can’t live without trees. The Indigenous peoples have a saying that ‘the trees hold up the sky’: if you cut down the trees, the sky will fall on you.’ What I can tell you is that unless you allow trees to grow, you would not be able to do what Dr. Paris was telling you, you will not be able to use the fresh air. The space is going to become hotter and hotter and its hot enough already, but trees will cool down the place.
That is why I want to see every avenue – and I’ve told you already – this place should have been a town a hundred years ago because when you go to other places; I can’t call out the names, I am President now so I can’t call out the names of the other places but when you go to other places they don’t have avenues and streets like you. But I want to see tree-lined avenues. I want to see fountains. I want to see parks. I want to see gardens. I want to see zoo, all that in Bartica. People must come here because it’s the most environmentally sound community in the entire country. So I want you to promote sound ecological practices by encouraging the growth and replanting of forests. So it is up to you.
As you know, in the neighbouring region, the Potaro-Siparuni Region, many years ago in 1989, that’s how long? Twenty-six years ago, President Desmond Hoyte went to the Commonwealth Heads of Government and he promised them what I would call an ecological laboratory, a place called Iwokrama rain forest; three hundred and seventy-one thousand hectares, a huge area in the heart of Guyana; a generous gift, not to Region Eight, not to Guyana but to all humanity. Iwokrama is to make sure that we learn sound environmental and ecological practices, and right here in Bartica, the gateway to the hinterland I would like to see those practices implemented. We must make sure that our children grow up learning the importance of keeping Guyana green; the importance of our forests even though we have to cut down trees to make our houses. We must replant those trees so that the next generation will have trees to keep the country cool.
The fifth rule that I would like to leave with you is about ‘green’ technology. When I speak about green technologies I speak about energy saving bulbs. When I speak about green technologies, I speak about offices which use more computers than paper. I speak about smart homes which allow the breeze to come in so you don’t have to use the air conditioning or other electrical devices to keep you cool. We have to learn to build in a different way so we make use of the wind and the natural cooling of the vegetation that is around us. We encourage the use of plants, not generating plants but growing plants that we are celebrating today so that Bartica becomes cooler. A real cool town, man! Have you ever heard about a cool town? Bartica must become a cool town.
We must look at the machines we use…. You could use an electrical vehicle, a bicycle, something that doesn’t use up gasoline, and furthermore it’s more silent…. So the National Tree Day is a day for all of us, for our children, for our women, our men folk, for our miners, for our business persons. National Tree Day is an opportunity for Bartica and this great Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region, a region bigger than The Netherlands to lead the way to making Guyana a country with a ‘green’ economy.
Last week I was at the United Nations General Assembly and people are interested in this ‘green’ economy. I spoke to the Prime Minister of The Netherlands; Prime Minister of Sweden; they are prepared to help people who are prepared to help themselves. They don’t want to come in here and see old ATVs and dieseline and junk, they want to come and see a thriving ‘green’ economy.
Today is a day for you to start beautifying your surroundings. Today is a day for you to start thinking of feeding yourselves with fruit, with breadfruit and other plants. Today is the day you must think of the investment in this ‘green’ economy, not just for you because the trees will live longer than you, but at least you’ll be able to give your children something when you are about to die other than good advice, you’ll be able to give them a fruit bearing tree or maybe even a farm of trees.
So Bartica, we have come here today to congratulate you on your role as leaders but also to thank you for accepting this responsibility. I will come back here again and again to see how you’re doing; how well you’re leading; how well you’re adopting this message. So you have a responsibility not to yourselves or your children alone, not the rest of Region Seven but to the entire country. And I charge you with the responsibility for leading the ‘green’ revolution in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
I can think of no better place to launch National Tree Day but the town of Bartica.
May God bless you!