Coastal Zone Management Project

Initially the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia was viewed as a model for coral reef management in Belize. However, largely through the foresight of Janet Gibson, who has been involved with the protection and management of Belize's reefs for many years, it was agreed that an integrated coastal zone management approach would be more appropriate, taking account of the land-based activities causing siltation and pollution. A Coastal Zone Management Unit was established in 1990 within the Fisheries Department, and a more permanent coastal zone management (CZM) programme is now being set up, assisted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

Reef Brief is a weekly column published in the San Pedro Sun

Two committees are responsible for integrating management efforts in the coastal zone. The CZM Technical Committee was established in 1990 to facilitate working relationships between all the agencies involved. It comprises representatives of government departments, community and private organizations, education and research institutions and NGO's involved in coastal zone management issues. It encourages the sharing of information, contributes to the creation of feasible government policies, plans and programmes, identifies technical problems, and provides advice on a variety of uses including projects that may require Environmental Impact Assessments.

A Steering Committee, established in 1993 and comprising representatives at a more senior level of the relevant agencies, oversees implementation of programme and ensures inter-ministerial co-ordination. Considerable emphasis is being placed on land-use planning, as it is clear that the careful location and design of industry, agriculture and urban developments can do much to minimize adverse effects on coastal waters and thus on the reefs.

Plans for a more permanent institutional arrangement have been drawn up and approved by cabinet. The Steering Committee will evolve into a CZM Authority, which will have a co-ordination and advisory role, statutory responsibilities remaining with the relevant Ministries. In addition a CZM Institute will be established, affiliated with University College of Belize (UCB). This will play an important role in monitoring, research, education and training and provide a supporting role to relevant government departments. A Coastal Zone Management Act is being drafted to establish these bodies.

This Reef Brief by Sue Wells

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