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Jan 21, 2011

World Heritage Site Commission to assess Belize Barrier Reef

The threat of the delisting the Belize Barrier Reef is top on the agenda of the new Belize National Commission for UNESCO. This morning at the ITVET campus, members of the Commission were formally installed. The Commission has until the end of the month to report on the status of the barrier reef as a World Heritage Site and to show that activities that put at risk the fragile eco-system will cease. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

In June 2009 Belize joined a list of countries whose biological and cultural marvels, declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, are in danger of being removed from a prestigious category of Earth’s many natural wonders.  The reason for the possible delisting of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is the excessive and disproportionate mangrove cutting for development within delicate areas of the reef.  The Government of Belize has until February 1st to turn in a report to the organization on conservation efforts to stop the sale of land and concessions for oil exploration within the site.

That’s less than two weeks away.  According to Dr. David Brown despite the likelihood of the tourist attraction being removed from that list of places, if Belize were to show that it is resolute in addressing the problem the removal of the Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site will not be imminent.

david brown

Dr. David Brown, Secretary General UNESCO, Belize

“If UNESCO finds that we are not doing anything about what is going on [then] that’s a different story but if we are really, seriously doing something and we are giving them the information and the evidence that we are doing something [then] they are not going to hurry to, I mean, remove Belize from the list.”

To show that it means business the Belize National Commission for UNESCO (NATCOM) today introduced its new members for the second biennial session 2011-2012 and high on its agenda is that singular issue.

Patrick Faber, President, NATCOM

“If we can assure UNESCO in the discussions, through the manner that Dr. Brown has outlined, say to UNESCO listen there are procedures in this country [and] these people [who] have been granted concessions may well not be able to proceed if we find out that there are threats to the environment of Belize then that’s a no to those people.  Not because you have a concession, in other words, you are able to proceed in this kind of exploration and drilling.”

The commission tasked with the responsibility of tackling this and other issues is a motley crew of professionals; from the Chief Librarian and the Director of the Women’s Department to the Associate Director of the Institute of Archaeology and a lecturer of Science and Technology at the University of Belize.

Patrick Faber

patrick faber

“The National Commission for UNESCO is a representative body so that there is representation from various stakeholders on all of these issues.  We will be also appointing this morning, I believe, the technical committee members.  As you know there are five technical committees and these committees will be chaired by persons who are on the National Commission but once they become the chair of those commissions they are free to go out and to co-opt other people in the community to work on their commission.”

Outgoing members as well as those returning were also recognized for their accomplishments last year with certificates of participation.  The fate of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System now lies in the hands of the newly inaugurated commission. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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2 Responses for “World Heritage Site Commission to assess Belize Barrier Reef”

  1. Lindsay Howard says:

    Well, if I were the UNESCO people, I surely wouldn’t take promises for an answer. I’d want hard and fast laws that couldn’t be gotten around through ministerial discretion or hiding approvals and permits from the public as is now routinely done by the Department of the Environment, DOE and other government agencies.

  2. Sport says:

    From what I just read, it sounds like UNESCO gave the government a really short and possibly, an unreasonable window of time to prepare that report.

    Sounds like the real issue here is UNESCO trying to cut down on its expenditures to support activities at World Heritage Sites, which wouldn’t surprise me since most organizations are having to restructure their budgets during these challenging economic times.

    I hope the government is able to produce a solid report by the deadline, and hopefully this all works out in favor for everyone opposed to offshore drilling.

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