Georgetown, Guyana – (June 17, 2019) Minister of Communities, Mr. Ronald Bulkan said with Georgetown being the hub of business and port activities for the oil and gas industry, the launch of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Crafting of an Urban Development Master Plan, this morning, is timely. Mr. Bulkan noted that an organised and structured development framework is crucial for this sector as developments move apace, as there will soon be a surge in the demand for public and private infrastructure, particularly urban spaces.

The convening of the Task Force marks the beginning of the national discourse mandated by the Cabinet to give priority attention to waterfront development and urban planning. Minister Bulkan said it is expected to serve as a mechanism of support to, primarily, “increase the probability of maximum positive impact on the society”.

The Minster also noted that the Government intends to arrest the decay caused by the dearth of planning institutions, weak enforcement of building and zoning codes over the past two decades that have resulted in the growth of unregulated areas in both residential and commercial areas as well as public spaces.

In order to realise its vision of a modern, 21st Century urban space, the Ministry, together with key public sector agencies aims to create sustainable communities by mainstreaming its green agenda.

In this vein, it aims to address the priority areas captured in Guyana’s Green State Development strategy (GSSDS), which incorporates themes such as water resources management and sanitation, housing and transportation, among others.

Director, Department of Energy, Dr. Mark Bynoe reiterated that the GSDS is the best model to realise this goal. Further, with Guyana poised to start oil production in 2020, the concept of the “Smart Urban Development Master Plan” is no more apt than at the present, he said. In his presentation titled, “Urbanizing in the face of an emerging oil and gas industry,” Dr. Bynoe said he believes that Guyana’s small population provides an opportunity for focus to be placed on seeking out technological solutions to current transportation challenges in particular.

“Georgetown, as we know it today, is a place of greater flow of heavy vehicular traffic; increasing congestion and angst; ineffective traffic management; non-existent priority lanes; a culture of impatience and intolerance; insufficient enforcement of the City laws and by-laws, and insufficient multi-purpose facilities. It is therefore, essential that any such Master Plan, must include the consideration of identifying infrastructure needs (on-shore support) such as fabrication and construction, and supply and service opportunities such as transportation and distribution, arising from exploration and development of oil and gas resources in offshore Guyana.. It is therefore essential that we also seek to enhance the participation of local business, institutions, associations and individuals in commercial and direct and indirect employment,” he said.

Dr. Bynoe also noted that discussions should not only centre on what production would mean but how all these phases would impact the urban landscape. He said there are a range of economic opportunities for local and regionally based suppliers, as well as the oil and gas companies, at each phase of development.

“Production and transportation related services would be critical for supporting offshore activities… “We focus heavily as well with regard to production, but not sufficient attention is often allocated in terms of what lanes are being designated for first responder as most of our hospitals and primary health care services are found in central Georgetown,” he asserted.

Moreover, the Energy Director said in its current phase, Georgetown will require stringent zoning and the enforcement of these zoning laws and oil and gas development will have to co-exist with other development activities and productive sectors. He explained that there will be need to ensure that attention is paid to planning urban centres that are economically feasible, social acceptable and environmentally sustainable; elaborate a regulatory and administrative context to maximize investment in onshore and offshore exploration for hydrocarbons, i.e., both oil and gas, while minimizing costs; establish a clear environmental regulatory regime; continue to improve the infrastructural base through selective investment in good transportation facilities, education, hospitals and ensure access to land for commercial and industrial purposes, particularly the land needs of the oil and gas sector; encourage the planning, regeneration and use of existing infrastructure; identify and promote areas to accommodate the specific needs of hydrocarbon projects, e.g., maintain and upgrade wharves, airport and related facilities at key locations and continue to invest in public education and health care.

The Task Force also comprises representatives from the Ministry of the Presidency; the Mayor and City Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, the Central Planning and Housing Authority, the Maritime Administration, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the Ministry of Business.

Minister of State, Mrs. Dawn Hastings-Williams; Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Jaipaul Sharma; Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Ms. Annette Ferguson; Mayor of Georgetown, His Worship Ubraj Narine, representatives of the European Union and the British High Commission also attended the event.

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