Guyana has comprehensive action plan to buffer effects of global warming
By Melanie Allicock
Kaieteur News
March 17, 2007

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Guyana has already begun to draft an effective response and undertake preparation for the human health effects of global warming.

Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said efforts have commenced at ensuring that the public procurement system, warehousing capacity, and distribution system for health commodities, such as drugs and medical supplies, are strengthened.

This would be most important, the Minister noted, in dealing with health disasters resulting from the impacts of global warming and climate change.

“The immunization program is an imperative with global warming, because with greater shifts of parasitic genome globally, we must protect our children, as they become adults, from diseases that are circulating more widely across climatic barriers.”

Ramsammy added that the availability of health services and public health interventions are critical responses that must be in place.

“ Guyana 's commitment to the International Health Regulations (IHR) is another critical element in our response.”

Acknowledging the importance of developing an early response system as an imperative, the Minister said the country is also moving to develop a sound surveillance system for existing and emerging diseases. The system must include an early warning system, he posited.

The new $800M Public Health Laboratory being built will significantly enhance the capacity to accomplish these things, the Minister noted.

He said that in addition to this, Guyana has been implementing the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System as a means of ensuring the safety of food, a challenge that would become even greater as the impact of global warming becomes even more evident.

Commenting on other initiatives being undertaken, the Minister said that the Environmental Protection Agency has been consistent in raising awareness and educating on the issues and implications relating to global warming.

He said that the National Action Plan for Guyana 's Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Implementation Strategy for Coastal and Low Lying Areas, which was published in 2002, demonstrated the several things that Guyana is doing to mitigate the impacts of global warming.

“We have been working on establishing building codes through the CH&PA in order to ensure that buildings take into consideration the impacts of global warming and climate change…Water conservation plans, diversity in economic development, such as greater emphasis on aquaculture and the Fisheries Management Plan, are all in keeping with mitigation and adaptation programs in response to global warming.”

The Minister said that Guyana 's signing on to the initiative for Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA) is not merely an infrastructural program, it also ensures that the infrastructure for hinterland movement is in place.

He noted that population and development shifts are bound to follow infrastructural development in the hinterland.

“I heard the calls for movement of communities and the city to the hinterland. If this is the way we must go, it will take planning and a long time to happen. It will not happen tomorrow…Hinterland movement may be inevitable. But it's not going to happen tomorrow. The Government of Guyana sees both a development of the coast and the hinterland, leaving us with options and not abandoning the investments we have made for decades and centuries.”

He added that all Guyanese should be encouraged by the fact that Guyana has an action plan to deal with global warming and climate change; also, there remain a number of challenges that are to be surmounted.

“We are not ashamed to admit that the plan is more ambitious than our capacity to fund it. The fact is we know what has to be done.

We also know that we need assistance to fully implement the plan. So we have asked for help. We have spent billions of dollars of our own money towards mitigation and adaptation programs in our country.

It is not a case of non-investment. But we also say that more investment than those we are willing and capable of making are needed.

That is why we ask for help. We make no apology for this. Our people should take assurance from this fact.”

The Minister also repeated his call for governments and people to take global warming seriously and to take the necessary action to stop the slide towards non-reversibility.

“There are certain global goods that we all must take responsibility for. Guyanese may think that we are not responsible… and for sure, the effect of greenhouse gases on the ozone layer, on global warming and climate change, cannot be placed on our door steps.

Countries like the USA cannot escape their responsibility, because for sure these problems can be laid on their doorsteps…but to see poor, small countries like Guyana taking steps to preserve our carbon credits, to develop programs such as Iwokrama, to utilize our forestry in a sustainable way, to see the rain forest as a global good, is an example that the whole world should emulate.

Guyana, let us show the world what it is to act for all humanity, selflessly not for just us, but for everyone,” Ramsammy said.