Still on the topic of litter - while the action plan focuses on marine litter, there is still a lot to be done to address land litter. One of the main setbacks in this case is enforcement. There is none, and, sad to say, many adults, who should know better, are not setting the right example for others or their children. So ticketing and other options have to be implemented to enact change. Chief environmental Officer Martin Alegria discussed the loop-holes that have contributed to this lax enforcement system.
Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer, DOE
"We have this littering tickets from 1996 in the books under the summary jurisdiction act. It has been modified in 2003 and 2005 in order to strengthen it in the sense of 2 things; 1) to give the municipalities; the town boards and city halls the power for them to issue their own type of litter tickets under the assistance of the national government. That hasn't worked out as well as we thought. Secondly, the whole issue of littering from outside the city limits and that hasn't worked out either for many reasons; 1) it's a concerted effort. The department of the environment is not the only one that is involved, because there is prosecution. We depended a lot and still to a certain degree depend on police department's prosecution branch. Of recent we have our own internal lawyer, but before that it was dependent on police and perhaps 20 years that wasn't a priority. Crime is what was priority more for the DPP, the solicitor office and the prosecution branch of police. But we have to now revive that, coordinate better and see that now litter is now becoming more and more of a critical issue to address. Land based pollution, littering in this case. So we need to revive that."
"Will you guys actually capitalize on those tickets? can you say how many persons have even been issued with those tickets?"
"We have issued over the past year or two if you could say a dozen or two would be too much and those are more on the highways; busses, trucks or things that we see along the highway. Why? because within city or town limits is the local government that by law are authorized to issue it. We can issue it, but we dont want to get involved in issuing a ticket to somebody that later on is not found or is not in that specific town, he or she was just visiting. So that is left more to the town or city hall to issue."
"Will there be a collaboration that a serious move towards that, because people will continue to throw litter? You see them throw garbage out of the bus, but they are not going to do that in neighbouring Mexico, because of the enforcement."
"That's number one issue that we have seen, enforcement of the law, apart from other initiative such as the plastic regulation that should come on stream any time now. That's a national perspective too in terms of litter generated from plastic."
Combatting Marine Waste
The Department of the Environment along with its UK partners officially launched what is called the Belize Marine Litter Action plan. A ceremony was held at the Radisson this morning to commemorate the new plan. Courtney Weatherburne has more.
Courtney Weatherburne reporting
Unfortunately for many, throwing garbage on the ground is like breathing - there isn't a second thought before disposing of it, nor an afterthought when it is done.
Of course, some of that garbage ends up in the landfills and dump sites while a lot of it ends up on beaches and in the sea - that is when it becomes an even bigger problem.
The Department of the Environment along with UK's Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science among other partners launched Belize's first Marine Litter Action Plan to address this grave and growing issue.
Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer, DOE
"The marine litter action plan initiative is a commonwealth initiative under the financing or stewardship of the UK Department of Environment and so they in their 2018 commonwealth meeting they came up with priorities on environment and marine litter was one and so they decided let's see what we can do to help the earth in terms of this type of issue because it is becoming a grave concern so they looked at four areas or four regions of the world that they would want to address, the first one like I mentioned was the pacific which the finished, the second was the Caribbean which when they went through the history of the countries they realized Belize is the one they want to work with in order to spring board to the region CARICOM."
"What are the specifics of this action plan, how can residents see it work out on the ground level?"
"We have in 5 components, one is public awareness, we need to consolidate, integrate and have one main message or a set of same messages rather than NGO's private sector and governments having their own."
"A second one is the science behind because to make policy and to pass laws you need the science behind it."
"The other one is sea based marine litter generation or pollution. This I what we call ship generated waste, marine litter. Right now in the territory of Belize the cargo ships that come to Belize are small, the cruise ships are medium but the bigger part of it is those that are going up and down our coast. How do we address that generated waste that perhaps they dump along affecting our barrier reef? The 4th one is land based sources of marine pollution and that is where we Belizeans need to be very much involved."
"And another component is policy and law without policy and law and enforcement of those laws it is something we are skidding in the same spot so that is another component."
The action plan is set to run for 5 to 10 years and it will surely take a collaborative effort to reduce the generation of marine litter and better protect our vulnerable undersea ecosystems.
It took the team about 5 months to finalize the action plan. After Belize's action plan is realized, the UK group will move on to South Africa and Asia to implement similar projects.