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Nature Conservancy recommends deferral of Waterloo project

Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2022. 4:08 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: A letter sent by The Nature Conservancy (TNC)’s country director, Julianne Stockbridge, to the CEO of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Chairman of the NEAC, Kenrick Williams, points to four major reasons for the Blue Bond facilitator’s call for the Government of Belize to hit the brakes on Waterloo’s proposed Port of Belize development as cited by the Amandala newspaper.

TNC, which also co-created a framework for generating cash flow for marine conservation over the next 20 years, has warned CEO Williams that the proposed Cargo Expansion and Cruise Port Terminal and Village by Waterloo Investment Holdings at the Port of Belize that the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) still has several deficiencies.

The letter says that contrary to Government’s handling of the single ESIA, separate assessments for the cargo expansion and cruise terminal project should have been submitted in order to ensure that each addresses “all potential impacts” due to the differing size and scope and potential impacts of each project. Environmental officer of the Department of Environment, Kenrick Gordon had said, during the public consultation on Waterloo’s ESIA that was held at the Belize Best Western Biltmore Plaza on September 1 that Government did not prefer the “piecemeal approach” of such a proposal.

But the current ESIA, says TNC, fails to address among other things the Outstanding Universal Value of our World Heritage Site, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System – a requirement that was included in the 2020 amendment of the EIA regulations. The Outstanding Universal Value is defined by UNESCO as having cultural and/ or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.

This was pointed out by attorney Sharon Pitts during her presentation at the public consultation when she asked the panel how the reef would be “present-proofed and future-proofed” by those persons/entities which are implementing this project. She outlined that a no-action alternative would be the only viable solution, and that position was echoed by TNC in its written submission as a third major point. Stockbridge noted that a no-action alternative is not included in the project proposal/ESIA, and points to that shortfall as something that must be rectified.

The revised ESIA’s consultants say that because the context of the other proposed port developments by Stake Bank Enterprises Limited and Portico Enterprises Limited are not being considered, it would not be possible to estimate net jobs created or environmental risks if all three projects go ahead.

But TNC says those other projects should absolutely be considered in outlining the potential impacts if all three projects, located within an eight-mile radius of each other, go ahead. For these reasons, it adds, the government and the National Environmental Appraisal Committee should defer environmental clearance until a further in-depth assessment is done and crucially, an overall mapping of Belize’s marine areas and an overall vision or strategy that could guide critical development decisions that might affect the country for decades to come is completed.

 

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