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Conservation organizations demand answers on environmental assessments; insist they are not “anti-development”

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Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2022. 12:49 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: A coalition of conservation and environmental groups has been waiting 11 days for a response from Prime Minister John Briceño to their letter concerning a reminder of promises to funding partners about bolstering the conservation of marine facilities in and around the Belize Barrier Reef, using savings from the 350-million-US-dollar Blue Bond.

Among other things, the group is calling for the Government to, “Pause all Environmental Impact Assessments currently in process… until the associated and relevant environmental regulations and laws are appropriately amended and fully realized.”

According to Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA), speaking on Channel 7 News program Sunup, environmental NGOs are already doing their part: “…the Belize Marine Protected Areas Network basically has remodeled its whole program of work to ensure that we can deliver those conservation agreements under the Blue Bonds because it is serious, and we do a big part of that job. We collect all the data. We have to put all that forward there. There are many people there, you know, that are out there really working hard to ensure that we meet those conservation agreements. And so, for any slippage to allow, you know, we are taking our responsibility, we are taking our part. So, we expect the government to do the same.”

Senator Janelle Chanona, NGO representative and Vice-President, Oceana Belize, says it is all about developing sustainably, pointing to the balance between overnight and cruise tourists and the expansion of no less than three cruise projects in and around Belize City: “We have, I think, upwards of 90 percent of our tourism dollars coming from the overnight stay, but really only 9 percent coming from cruise. So again, when you look at the cost-benefit analysis, and you say, okay, if we’re going to do cruise, let’s figure out how, where, and why to do it. Because if we’re going to be negatively impacting or degrading sites – because it’s not just marine – it’s also where are they going to go? You know, what’s the carrying capacity of those sites? They’re talking about oasis ships, like, it’s a great thing that, you know, thousands more will come. But what does that mean for, you know, bathroom facilities at Altun Ha?… We need to figure out, okay, how do we develop sustainably and figure out what happens where? Because otherwise, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”

The NGO reps also wanted to address what they say is a persistent misconception in the public that they are automatically opposed to any and all proposed development. Senator Chanona said stable livelihoods and sustainable development must be balanced with a system that will prevent obviously harmful activities from occurring: “…if a point in time comes and says, you know, we don’t want X, Y, and Z here, it should not have to immediately mean a court case. If we’ve already said we don’t want strip mining, we don’t want to quarry, we don’t want this, why is it that somebody can come in and say, no, I’m going to wear you down?… We are collaborators. We are not confrontational on every single development issue, but we need it done in a certain way. And if the right systems are in place and the right firm terms are in place, then everybody would feel more comfortable because there’s not going to be a secret deal signed that we find out about, years down the road, or somebody come and say, hey, you owe me. We’re past that.”

 

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