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During this morning’s press conference, the subject of the Belize Barrier Reef and the danger of losing its UNESCO World Heritage designation was brought up. With the possible huge impact that would have on the Tourism industry, Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia Junior told Love FM’s Patrick Jones that he does not believe it will reach the worst case scenario because his government is already working to take preventive measures.

Manuel Heredia, Jr.; Minister of Tourism

“Definitely I see as an administration from the time we took over we have really been trying our best to make sure that what happened in the past does not occur. Fortunately so many things have happened but I feel we will not get to that stage. We have been working, we have met with the people several times assuring them that as a responsible government we will continue to make sure that we do the right thing not to damage or affect our reef. As a previous fisherman and still loving the sea so much I am one of the first ones that will cry four whenever anything that will affect our reef comes along. I see no fear in probably thinking or speculating that we will lose that world heritage.”

According to the Chairman of the Belize Tourism Board Lindsay Garbutt, a meeting was held on Friday with officials of the UNESCO World Heritage Site committee in an attempt to formulate a local response.

Lindsay Garbutt; Chairman, BTB

“We met for about three hours a team of people with the director and myself on Friday looking to frame a response because there were some specific issues that were sighted by the World Heritage Site Committee and we are working together with the NGO and key people within other ministries to frame a response. Like the minister the reef has been a part of my life and certainly we know how much importance. To me the reef defines Belize and loosing the World Heritage Sites would be a tragedy. Rest assure that the government, the ministry and all the key players including the NGO’s that have a responsibility for some of the management of the key resources are coming together to make sure that we do not lose that status.”

Garbutt says that public consultations will take place in the coming weeks, so that all the stakeholders are aware of what needs to be done to keep the designation of the Belize Barrier Reef as a world heritage site.

Lindsay Garbutt

“We start off recognizing that we cannot afford lose the status. We have people from the NGO community to whom consultation is a natural part of what they do so certainly we will work and consult with whichever partner both local and international we need to work with to ensure that we preserve that status. I don’t know if I would say go easy on us. When you accept certain responsibilities you have got to live up to them and like the minister said this government has been doing all it can. It is not easy reversing trends like what happened before is not easy. It is not like you can just go there tomorrow and change the biological status of the reef. We think that in working with our key partners we are going to be able to not ask UNESCO to go easy on us but show them that we have considered seriously what they have said to us. Show them just how important that status and the reef is to us and I am sure they will understand.”

The one hundred and eighty five mile-long Belize Barrier Reef was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1996.


#393890 - 12/01/10 09:11 AM Re: FEARS CONCERNING THE BARRIER REEF BROUGHT UP [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
Placencia resident writes PM Barrow on reef “catastrophe of enormous proportions”

Dear Honorable Dean Barrow,

As you so proudly stated to the world at the Global Warming Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, our country is blessed with the largest Barrier Reef in the western hemisphere. In 1996, UNESCO designated our reef system a World Heritage Site - a designation reserved only for the world’s most outstanding examples of cultural and natural heritage.

More than 237,000 acres of marine reserves, natural monuments, wildlife management areas and national parks provide a rich habitat of coral reefs, islands, lagoons, wetlands, mangroves and tropical forests that nourish diverse habitats for rare medicinal plants, endangered reptiles, birds, mammals and marine life.

Unfortunately, Government’s granting of oil concessions and the sales and leases of lands within this sensitive part of the reef threaten this unique designation. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has placed Belize on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger, and may revoke Belize’s reef as a World Heritage site.

This loss of international status would be shooting ourselves in the foot. The entire world would know that Belize had caved in to oil companies, moneyed interests and private investors. The whole world would point to Belize as the country that had so much, but sold out for a few cheap tokens.

To quote you again in Copenhagen, Mr. Prime Minister: “We must avert utter social, economic, and environmental catastrophes.”

Having Belize removed as a World Heritage Site most certainly would be a catastrophe of enormous proportions, with negative repercussions for our entire nation. It would be an outright rejection of an honor bestowed upon us by the United Nations. It would adversely impact tourism, our country’s major source of income. It would destroy our precious natural resources. It would also constitute a violation of our essential constitutional rights.

UNESCO has set a deadline of 1 February, 2011 for the Government of Belize to submit a report to address conservation measures and prevention of the sales and leases of lands within the World Heritage site.

Let’s beat that deadline, Mr. Barrow. Let’s adopt a New Year’s Resolution that will set the tone for generations to come: Under your leadership, Mr. Barrow, let’s prove to the world that Belize chooses and implements environmental responsibility and protection over quick and unsustainable fixes.

A country’s leader is not remembered by the promises made, but by the promises kept, for the innovative policies initiated, for the bold actions taken to benefit an entire nation.

Mr. Barrow, let this be your legacy.
Patricia E. Celenza



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