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#398106 - 01/22/11 10:06 AM World Heritage Commission to assess Barrier Reef
Marty Online   happy

The threat of the delisting the Belize Barrier Reef is top on the agenda of the new Belize National Commission for UNESCO. This morning at the ITVET campus, members of the Commission were formally installed. The Commission has until the end of the month to report on the status of the barrier reef as a World Heritage Site and to show that activities that put at risk the fragile eco-system will cease. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

In June 2009 Belize joined a list of countries whose biological and cultural marvels, declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, are in danger of being removed from a prestigious category of Earth’s many natural wonders. The reason for the possible delisting of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is the excessive and disproportionate mangrove cutting for development within delicate areas of the reef. The Government of Belize has until February 1st to turn in a report to the organization on conservation efforts to stop the sale of land and concessions for oil exploration within the site.

That’s less than two weeks away. According to Dr. David Brown despite the likelihood of the tourist attraction being removed from that list of places, if Belize were to show that it is resolute in addressing the problem the removal of the Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site will not be imminent.

David Brown

Dr. David Brown, Secretary General UNESCO, Belize

“If UNESCO finds that we are not doing anything about what is going on [then] that’s a different story but if we are really, seriously doing something and we are giving them the information and the evidence that we are doing something [then] they are not going to hurry to, I mean, remove Belize from the list.”

To show that it means business the Belize National Commission for UNESCO (NATCOM) today introduced its new members for the second biennial session 2011-2012 and high on its agenda is that singular issue.

Patrick Faber, President, NATCOM

“If we can assure UNESCO in the discussions, through the manner that Dr. Brown has outlined, say to UNESCO listen there are procedures in this country [and] these people [who] have been granted concessions may well not be able to proceed if we find out that there are threats to the environment of Belize then that’s a no to those people. Not because you have a concession, in other words, you are able to proceed in this kind of exploration and drilling.”

The commission tasked with the responsibility of tackling this and other issues is a motley crew of professionals; from the Chief Librarian and the Director of the Women’s Department to the Associate Director of the Institute of Archaeology and a lecturer of Science and Technology at the University of Belize.

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber

“The National Commission for UNESCO is a representative body so that there is representation from various stakeholders on all of these issues. We will be also appointing this morning, I believe, the technical committee members. As you know there are five technical committees and these committees will be chaired by persons who are on the National Commission but once they become the chair of those commissions they are free to go out and to co-opt other people in the community to work on their commission.”

Outgoing members as well as those returning were also recognized for their accomplishments last year with certificates of participation. The fate of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System now lies in the hands of the newly inaugurated commission. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

#398870 - 01/29/11 11:59 AM Re: World Heritage Commission to assess Barrier Reef [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Barrier Reef World heritage status: New Flexibility may concede limited offshore drilling

The World Heritage Site Committee says the government of Belize has taken UNESCO’s recommendations for preserving the status of Belize’s Barrier Reef seriously and is just about ready to meet UNESCO’s February deadline.

The site committee’s chairman, Wilber Sabido, told Reporter on January 25, that the committee, along with assistance from non-government organizations such as APAMO, had drafted a report that addresses the eight “corrective measures” that UNESCO said GOB needed to look into or risk Belize’s reef being “de-listed” as a World Heritage Site.

Sabido explained that the document should be given to Cabinet on Tuesday, February 1, the same day when UNESCO said it was to receive the report. The committee said the report being a little late won’t offset the Reef’s chances.

Sabido said UNESCO’s February deadline wasn’t “D-Day”, it is simply the date by which the report is to be submitted.

The decision of whether or not it is acceptable will succeed the World Heritage Convention’s 35th session to be held in Manama, Bahrain from June 19-29.

The matter first arose in 2009 when UNESCO had placed Belize on its “List of World Heritage Sites in Danger”.

UNESCO charged that the development practices in areas that directly or indirectly impact the Reef posed great threats to the survival of the reef system.

UNESCO identified the areas of primary concern, such as the “sale and lease of public lands for the purposes of development within the property leading to the destruction of mangrove and marine ecosystems” as one of the principal matters GOB had to address.

The organization asked GOB to “implement the necessary legal measures to guarantee the permanent cessation of the sale and lease of lands throughout the property, and the cessation of mangrove cutting, coral dredging and other associated real estate development activities.”

Sabido said the committee’s report recommends several changes to the regulations on mangrove cutting.

It recommends that GOB increase the fines for those found to be cutting mangroves without government approval, and it also recommends designating zones where mangrove cutting would be strictly prohibited.

Sabido said 30 years of research had revealed that only about 0.07% of mangroves had been cleared; a figure that the committee says is relatively small.

UNESCO also called on GOB to address the issue of oil concessions. UNESCO said the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had “...received reports that oil concessions have been granted in blocks along the entire coast of Belize, including all the component sites of the property, and considers that activation of these concessions would have serious ramifications on the integrity of the property.”

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterated the clear policy position that oil exploration is incompatible with World Heritage Status.

The granting of oil concessions within the property highlights that current local protection is insufficient for a World Heritage property.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN strongly urge the State Party [Belize]...to enact legislation to prohibit oil exploration within the Belize Barrier Reef System on the basis of its status as a World Heritage status.”

The committee acknowledged that the matter of oil concessions does pose a serious threat to the health of the reef, but Sabido said consideration must be given to the “overall national development needs” of the country and in no way suggests that the prohibiting or cancellations of oil concessions be looked at as a “hard and fast” matter.

Instead, Sabido said the World Heritage Centre should collaborate with and provide GOB with the relevant technical and financial assistance to help carry out proper research to help GOB distinguish those areas where drilling should not be done from those where sustainability can be assured.

Sabido said the site committee had taken into account all the areas of concerns and corrective measures that UNESCO and after the Cabinet has reviewed the document, it should be sent to the World Heritage Committee.

The Reporter

#399002 - 01/30/11 05:01 PM Re: World Heritage Commission to assess Barrier Reef [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
We'll loose the designation none the less when drilling begins in a few yrs time
Belize based travel specialist


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