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Jun 9, 2017

The Barrier Reef Still in Danger

The Belize Barrier Reef System will remain on the UNESCO world heritage site ‘in danger list.’  It has been on this list for eight years and in March of this year, Belize submitted its status report to the UNESCO World Heritage Site committee for review. The Committee has since given a draft decision that Belize remains on that list. An official statement will be given when the committee meets next month in Poland.  So, for now, Belize remains ‘ in danger’ and only gets one chance every year to be considered for removal from that list based on measures that must be implemented to protect the Barrier Reef.  Belize will have to try again next year to be removed from the list when it submits it status report showing that steps have been taken to address the threats to the reef.  Nadia Bood of the World Wildlife Fund told us the reasoning behind the decision to keep Belize on the ‘in danger list.’

 

Nadia Bood

Nadia Bood, Country Rep, World Wildlife Fund

“It was put on the list since 2009 and it still remains. In the process of trying to get it off the list, every year the Government is asked to submit a status report on the key steps that the country is making to get the world heritage site off the list. And so every year, towards the beginning of the year, they need to submit a status that report. So, this year they submitted the report in March and what happens that report is then reviewed and then a draft decision is made by the UNESCO World Heritage Site Committee that decided whether or not the world heritage site remains on the list or be taken off. Sadly, after reviewing the report from the country submitted, they decided to keep Belize Barrier Reef System on the World Heritage Site ‘in danger’ list.  The committee reiterates its position that the adequacy of the one kilometer buffer zone needs revision. The Government had in December 2015 said that there would be a ban on oil exploration within the property and a one kilometer buffer around the property and the Barrier Reef. The world heritage site does not accept that, they want the justification for that. Based on the recent report they submitted, it seems the Government is sticking with that 1 kilometer ban. They are thinking to proceeding directly to legislate that ban without consultations, of course. So, an important recommendation by the committee is that they want to see the justification for that one kilometer ban and they want to see it before the Government legislates that ban. Another key thing that they have a concern with the fact that Government hasn’t put a formal ban on the sale and lease of land within the property. So, far we have learned and the committee, of course, has learned that there has been a significant sale of lease and property within the world heritage site. The Government claims that only ten percent of lands within the world heritage site is currently public lands. So, the world heritage site is pushing to legislate the ban and try to safeguard that current ten percent of public land.”

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