Can Development Be 'Friendly' to the Environment?
posted (May 24, 2006)

There are only 52 weeks in the year, and many, many more causes than that so they have to share. That's why this week is Natural Resources and Environment week and Disability Week. We'll tell you about the activities for Disabilities Week later on, but first to the environment. The theme is: "environmental education, a step towards friendly development." But since when is development any kind of friend to the environment. Usually development comes at a cost to the environment. So this morning at the National Environmental Summit, held under the theme of "promoting environmentally friendly development" we asked, can there ever truly be such a thing? The Minister of Environment says "yes."

Hon. Johnny Briceno, Minister of Natural Resources
"The environment has evolved from just a matter of a green issue or a protection/conservation stand to more a sustainable development issue whereby it is recognized that the natural resources should be managed in a sustainable manner but it must be people centered. It's not a matter that the environment is less important. We recognize the importance of the environment but also we need to recognize the importance that the environment plays in development and also on people."

Martin Allegria,
"From the onset like I said our regulations that were developed under the Environmental Protection Act, our activities we have planned from year to year, have been with that concept in mind, balancing development with environmental protection, neglecting none of them in the sense that, yes, there is the need to protect the environment from certain activities that in the long or medium term could have impacts, significant negative impacts on the environment, and at the same time encouraging development of what this week's theme is which is friendly development."

Jules Vasquez,
'Friendly development' sounds kind of like a euphuism for, 'they have the money, let's allow them to do what they want.' Is there still that staunch advocacy because the fact is there are multimillion-dollar developments, whether it be seismic testing in Sarstoon Temash National Park or a proposed building of a causeway from Stake Bank Caye to Belize City - there are multimillion dollar project which necessarily needs for us to look away from the environment a little and look towards the money.

Martin Allegria,
"Not exactly. It has always been again the onset, with the onset of the EIA regulation back in '95, the EIA is basically a planning tool. Planning meaning before any construction or physical activity starts. And that EIA process has been implemented ever since as much as we can in the Department of Environment in the sense that we have medium and even huge projects as we are seeing nowadays come through, they all are required to go though the environmental screening process to determine if a EIA is required or not. The projects you mentioned and others have been required to do an EIA. Some have completed the process of being approved or not approved, some are developing the study itself and they haven't presented it yet to us."

Jules Vasquez,
We see with oil, petroleum exploration, that certain concessions have to be made on our environmental stance in order to enable exploration so important for the economic viability of our country.

Hon. Johnny Briceno,
"Well it's not a matter of sacrifice. It is a mater of not balance between development and the environment. In any sort of development that you have, you are going to have some type of impact on the environment. The goal here is to minimize that impact."

Jules Vasquez,
We are however allowing oil exploration in national parks?

Hon. Johnny Briceno,
"We have had oil exploration for the past fifty years all over this country. What has happened in this case, in the Sarstoon-Temash National Park, we have always said we consider Greg Choq and SATIIM as a partner with the Forestry Department; we signed a co-management agreement. In this case we recognize and understand SATIIM's concern and because of that we have ensured that the company that is going to do the seismic test at the moment is one that has had experience in working in wetlands. This company, as I've been told, they did some work in Ramsar site in