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Jul 1, 2009

World Heritage rep explains why reef is on danger list

Story PictureWhen the reef was accepted as a world heritage site in 1996 there were sporadic commercial developments on cayes within the site. But thirteen years later the expansion and dredging continued and that is what UNESCO representatives found during their recent visit to Belize. The ground work and report was made by Marc Patry who attended the thirty-third session of World Heritage Committee in Seville Spain. News Five’s Jose Sanchez spoke via phone to Patry.

Marc Patry, Natural Heritage Marine Programme Specialist, UNESCO
“The red flag that came up when we were there was the ongoing process of selling off or renting off mangrove islands within the World Heritage Site for development. You got to understand the Belize Barrier Reef. The Belize people ten years ago nominated this site. They said the site had a particular value; the marine ecosystem, the mangrove ecosystem. They said “we have great mangrove ecosystems here but on the other hand we see that they are letting them go. So this is what we flagged as the main concern at our visit back in March.”

Jose Sanchez
“What particular sites made you add Belize’s reef for recommendation to the list of World Heritages in Danger?”

Marc Patry
“We were in South Water Caye area where we saw some development going on; I think it’s called Catt caye, or Pelican caye. The cayes had different names at different times, but we also managed to take an over flight of the cayes and we saw quite a bit. This is not the only place where you had some mangrove cutting, some in-filling and some development.”

“This list is actually a tool. You know. When the World Heritage convention was first written up in past by the countries of the world in 1972 they put in a clause called the world heritage list in danger and the purpose of that was to flag that when some sites needed some extra push or cause for concern for help by the national government or even international support, then we put it on the danger list. We use the danger list as a tool to bring greater attention and greater cooperation to help in dealing with the challenges and that’s how it should be seen. If the general impression is the government of Belize doesn’t care about the site and does nothing to conserve it then there is no choice but to delist it altogether.”

Patry has since returned to the World Heritage Center in Paris and he says that the committee may choose to return to Belize and do a site inspection within a year to a year and a half. Developments in reserves have always been under fire by NGO’s. Today the Association of Protected Areas Protected Management Organizations sent a letter to the offices of both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Natural Resources requesting a meeting within the next two weeks to find a solution to move forward. APAMO’s letter refers to the reef’s listing “shameful” and calls on the government to implement corrective and monitoring measures to restore the site’s outstanding universal characteristics and values.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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