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