Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Education, Environment, Featured » Orange Walk School Affected by Condition of New River, Again
Apr 28, 2021

Orange Walk School Affected by Condition of New River, Again

The Department of Environment continues with its restoration efforts for the New River that runs through Orange Walk. The crisis on the stagnation of the river, and the associated public health and environmental hazards, first came to light back in 2019 and while there was some relief, the issue has resurfaced, along with the stench along the river bank. Now, it is threatening the reopening of in-person learning at La Inmaculada R.C. School.  News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

For over a month, there have been complaints of the resurgence of that pungent odour permeating the air in Orange Walk Town.  It’s an all too familiar smell that residents and businesses in proximity to the New River banks experienced two years ago, back in 2019.


Lenny Umana

Lenny Umana, Principal, La Inmaculada RC School

“We have been encountering this scenario for the past two years, but two years ago was the worst scenario in which we actually had to find a way to do a different type of schooling which we call a plan B. we felt that was it. The Ministry of Environment did step into the picture and of course, the river gradually got back to its normalcy. But this year in particular – because last year we didn’t really have the effects because we were not here; we were out due to the COVID. And now that we are planning to return, we are finding that it is causing a problem for the reopening of our school on May tenth.”


The La Inmaculada RC School is one out of some two hundred schools that has applied to the Ministry of Education, and for which approval has been given, for the safe reopening for in-person learning. Having invested in the installation of hand washing stations at both campuses, Principal Lenny Umana says that are concerned about the health hazards and not being able to successfully reopen to its one thousand plus students.


Lenny Umana

“We have teachers here almost every day. So when they come in they first have to air out their classrooms because the stench seems to accumulate at night. We have written letters to the authorities that be and so far we are still waiting for some response. Our management has been informed about the situation and our GM is doing her best to look into it, but the process is a bit slow. My biggest concern is that we are opening on May tenth, will my teachers be able to sustain this stench all day because we will be going into a shift system where we will be having them here all day? And then our children will be faced with this scenario as well. And I think our parents have lived this experience and will not like their children to be sitting in a classroom with their masks on all day and also dealing with ht stench of the river.”


Last Friday, the Department of the Environment and Ministry of the Blue Economy issued a joint release about the 2021 restoration efforts for the New River. They say that forty of the seventy-nine industries in Orange Walk Town have improved their wastewater and grey water discharge from their facilities, including ASR/B.S.I., which installed cooling towers.  The release speaks to the development of an Integrated New River Watershed Management Plan that will be finalised in October of this year. So what does all this mean to the school?


Lenny Umana

“The interventions that were put into place did gradually assist, but it was a very slow process. And the best the school could have done at that time was to ensure that the children got at least the basic subject areas and they spent less time at school, which is a scenario we may encounter on May tenth. Fortunately, and I don’t want to say fortunately because of pandemic, we found different forms of reaching out to children and our school went fully online. And so that’s something that would just fall right into place.”


The Department of Environment has reconvened the New River Task Force to join in a collaborative approach to addressing this longstanding issue. Duane Moody for News Five.


This afternoon, B.S.I. issued a released saying they have compliant with all environmental regulations and will be addressing the public on the issue next week.

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.

Advertise Here

Comments are closed