The various challenges of French Guiana

It is one of the French districts located in South America – French Guiana not only shares a border with Brazil and Surinam, but also a part of the Amazonian rainforest.

This rainforest covers 20,300 square kilometers, which roughly corresponds to a fourth of French Guiana’s total surface.

With the growing concerns for the preservation of the “lungs of the world”, due to intensive agriculture and deforestation in neighbouring areas, French Guiana has taken action to protect the forest and biodiversity including animals and communities living there. To do so, the authorities created the Amazonian Park of French Guiana in 2007, a year after this area was legally labelled as a French National Territory.

The measures taken since 2015 for the protection of this area include surveillance on the national park’s activities where police invigilates any suspicious and fraudulous activity such as gold panning and poaching.  

The national park is organized in a way that people are allowed to explore it and some areas are strictly protected to host living communities and protected species. I have had the chance to explore pathways in the forest of French Guiana where I could spot species I had never seen nor heard before. 

Indeed, people who go on these pathways are required not to litter, to avoid damaging the beauty of the place. Plants are also protected so cannot be plucked out. 

Recently, the local authorities have issued a document in order to decrease the use of hard copies for formalities, in favour of digital forms. 

Of course it raises the question of the existence of data centers, and even though awareness is raised regarding the preservation of the Amazon rainforest, the question regarding the protection of the ocean is also at stake.

Gold mining has remained an issue for the local populations. In effect, gold mining and gold panning have been performed in French Guiana since the 19th century in certain areas. In 2018, a project named “The Gold Mountain Project/ Le projet Montagne d’or”, a governmental project in the area of Saint Jean du Maroni, which consisted in extracting gold from a preserved area, was abandonned in May 2019 after associations of citizens including local populations living in the forest disagreed upon the matter. Such a project implies excavating the ground and deforestation, endangering ecosystems and local communities living in these areas. Still, the project was not completely left aside : a new project named “Esperance” has been voted for by the mining commission of French Guiana in April 2020. Local representatives of Indigenous tribes as well as associations such as WWF have voted and been fighting against it, yet the project is said to start in 2025. The surface to be excavated would correspond to 1,5 km and 300 meters deep. The process of excavation involves the use of dynamite and cyanure, both means being extremely lethal.

Sources : Guyane Soir, parc-amazonien-guyane.fr, Une Saison en Guyane by Guillaume Feuillet, www.la-croix.com by Pierre Garrigues on May 3, 2020, France TV Info, manufacture.paliens.org

Written by Adélaïde Uppal

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