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Jan 8, 2015

DOE Bridges Gap Between Man and His Environment

It is now abundantly clear that the protection of our environment is key to our continued existence. In fact sixty percent of the country has been designated as protected areas.  The Department of the Environment this morning organized a workshop in a protected area to emphasize to importance of implementing good practices to safeguard the environment but also get the media in tune with how the relevant agencies operate. Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Bridging the gap between the citizenry and the environment…The Department of Environment today organized a workshop with the media and partner agencies at the Community Baboon Sanctuary in Bermudian Landing. Its purpose – to build a good working relationship between the parties who work to conserve and protect nature, and to better inform stakeholders about the mandate of these entities.

 

Daedra Haylock

Daedra Haylock, Communications Consultant

“Environmental reporting is not a one shot; it is an involved process to report on the environment. And the way Belize manages the environment is very compartmentalized; the roles are split up across multiple departments and sometimes multiple ministries. And so we had to find a way to let the media be able to understand how these roles and multiple relationships function.  The media is a catalyst for change; the media is a vehicle for information, for knowledge and knowledge empowers change. And so to get citizens informed, to change policies, to change behaviors, the media has to be involved. So it is a productive direction that the department of environment wanted to achieve.”

 

But the relationship is two-fold and the agencies must be able to speak to the media when there is good and bad news. For example, the fisheries department started as a fisheries lab back in 1965 under the Minister of Industry. The goal is to proper manage aquatic and fisheries resources to optimize the benefits to the efficient and sustainable management of fisheries. Felicia Cruz spoke of some of the challenges facing the department.

 

Felicia Cruz

Felicia Cruz, Fisheries Officer

“There are some challenges that we face like other departments—financial and human resources—but I definitely think that we need to step up our awareness. Because a lot of people don’t know, especially people in rural areas, they are not familiar.  We must also recognize that a lot of fishing communities speak Spanish or they are bilingual. So we definitely need to engage these people a little bit more so that we can provide the necessary and updated information hat our laws have in place.”

 

Three laws currently govern the forest department of the ministry: the national parks systems act; the forest act, which includes forest rules and mangroves; and the wildlife protection act. But in some cases there portions of the laws that are archaic and contain a cornucopia of loopholes that prevent the department from carrying out its mandate.

 

Victoria Cawich

Victoria Cawich, Forest Officer

“The forest department as it is faced with a lack of resources and finance because today, as we presented in the workshop, the forest department is responsible for sixty percent of the forest in Belize, which is huge, with a limited number of staff of about forty which includes secretary and clerks. So we are very limited to cover all that sixty percent of forest.”

 

There are currently a hundred and three protected areas in the country, including terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. They are managed through several departments under the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development. But these departments are in place to ensure that there is a balance between development and natural integrity. The Department of Environment deals with the various types of pollution—land, water, air and noise. It has also been very active in ensuring that penalties are enforced when laws broken.

 

Edgar Ek

Edgar Ek, Deputy Chief Environmental Officer

“The department of the environment, as a department, we have one of the most updated laws in the country and one that has the highest penalties. If I could state some of them…doing a development without doing an EIA has a penalty from twenty-five thousand dollars to fifty thousand dollars. So that is in itself one of the biggest. The challenges that we face are basically the same throughout government services; that dealing with technical expertise, financial resources allocated for the activities that we have to carry on and human resources. Those are the three main constraints that we have.”

 

Also present at today’s workshop were the National Climate Change Organization, the National Protected Areas System (NPAS), Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute and the Protected Areas Conservation Trust. Duane Moody for News Five.

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