Martin Alegria, (Chief Environmental Officer)

The old maxim goes, “If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail.”

When your battle ground is the environment, the results can have lasting consequences.

The Department of the Environment’s five-year strategic statement and action plans expired back in 2011 and it is now on the homestretch to create a new plan that will take it through the next decade.

Today it hosted the first of a series of consultations with stakeholders in Belize City.

We asked Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria to grade how well the Department has done in the last five years.

He said that they have met most of their targets, including increasing public awareness, but there remain some challenges, including getting financing to address key issues.

One aspect of the Department’s work that has come under close scrutiny is the Environmental Impact Assessment, or EIA.

It’s now an important acronym to know when discussing environmental issues and how they impact such major projects as the Harvest Caye Norwegian Cruise Line port, the Stake Bank and Drowned Caye port and causeway, and the Green Tropics Agricultural Development in Cayo among others.

CEO Alegria told us that the process for conducting and developing the EIA as well as related assessments will be reviewed.

The Department, he said, will incorporate more usage of environmental audits and other similar plans into their work.

The work is being sponsored by the World Bank, which along with Government has final approval on the proposed plans.

A target date of September or October of this year has been set but delays with consultations and reviews may push it back to January.

The strategic development plan is now for ten years while the action plan remains at five.

Patrick Jones

Department of Environment holds workshop to develop 10 year plan

Martin Alegria

The Department of the Environment is updating its policy framework and action plan. Since its establishment in 1992, D.O.E. has formulated four, five-year plans. Today, key stakeholders, including the private sector, N.G.O.s, and line government agencies got together to work on a plan that will ensure sustainable development. Two of the key issues according to Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria, are public awareness and information dissemination.

Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer

“We have been following, because of the previous action plans, we know what the current issues are the pressing needs and so we have been doing those in the past two years but it is time now to have a fresh look at where we want to be in the next ten years. And hence we did extent our policy and strategy statement to now be a ten year program or a ten year plan with five years of action. That needs to be done in order to achieve our ten year strategy.  Today we are launching such an initiative where we are inviting all stakeholders in Belize that needs to be involved. There were six strategies in the previous five year strategy. I can focus on two: public awareness and info dissemination is critical. Governments have always been not only Belize but generally not too good at blowing their horns, at explaining how we are doing things, the way we try to encompass everybody’s input, having everybody benefiting instead of one or two. We haven’t been doing that good of a job so we for the past four to five years created the environmental public awareness and information unit in the department and we have succeeded in outreach and communication of environmental issues. And what do we do, a second is sustainability, financial sustainability, that’s always a cry. What we try to do at the department of the environment is maximize our resource in human by training all our personnel let each and everyone have us of the technology, everyone has a computer, internet connectivity etcetera. Well trained din short courses so we maximize it but at the same time it costs money, where do we get it from? And that’s were during the past four years or so we have been pushing until two years ago we got the environmental management fund established which is separate from the environmental tax fund; in order for us to finance non recurrent, initiatives that are key for long term planning, research and development. That balance approach is what we pursue and that is one of the most difficult tasks that government has trying to balance and provide for its people but at the same time protecting for the future generation of Belizeans. So don’t be afraid that that won’t happen. As long as I’m there will insist that that continues to be the case and the ten year policy and strategy framework we are beginning to develop here is for just that purpose if I leave tomorrow, there is a policy strategy statement and an action plan that we need to follow for the next five years and a strategy for the next ten years so that we continue with this sustainable development path.”

Channel 5