New Town Board Sworn In

The following are excerpts from the Belize Ecotourism Association's (BETA) President's Report. The annual general meeting of the association will be held on April 23, 1997 at the San Ignacio Hotel.

"Moving Forward"

A BETA home page has been installed on the Belize By Naturalight Web Site. Marguerite Bevis wrote the material and Tony Rath donated time and talent and space to its design and presence. Everyone is invited to view the page to read the Association's Code of Ethics, past and present activities, a definition of ecotourism, and hot issues. BETA's Web page can be found at: http://www.belizenet.com/beta.html.

Solid Waste Management. Solid Waste Management became a concern of BETA's during the 1996 "Adopt a Roadway Anti-Litter" project when it was realized that the present method of waste disposal was either nonexistent in many communities, or inefficient or mismanaged in communities which did have landfills.

Placencia Land Fill: This is an ongoing project with Glenn Eiley as Chair. The residents of the community raised funds for the survey of a landfill for Placencia which the government promised to donate land for and build if the residents did raise the money needed for the survey. The survey of the landfill site has now been completed.

Promising news from Germany via Mick Fleming who saw Ingwer Seelholf there, is that there is interest internationally, in donating considerable funds and technology to the country of Belize for the purpose of implementing an environmentally responsible solid waste project nationwide. I will be communicating with the parties in Germany to attempt to facilitate this project's conception. This would be a huge project, and BETA/BTIA could help to implement it, if BETA/BTIA are willing.

Possible funding sources for BETA have been identified and a grant needs to be written to hire an Executive Director so that BETA's aims and purposes can be accomplished. Depending completely on two or three people, working in their "spare time" on a voluntary basis, taking time away from their full time jobs, to accomplish these important objectives will not work. BTIA Membership Nationwide needs to take a serious look at the issues BETA is dealing with and decide for itself whether or not they are important.

A marine biology project for students of the University of Rhode Island, Chaired by Suzette Gibson. Students will be conducting surveys and providing information to the Coastal Zone Management Committee.

"Beta No Litta" - Working with and supporting Cayo BTIA and Radio Ritmo toward the "Down and Up" river clean-up project scheduled for March 2, 1997.

BETA is negotiating with Neon Plastics to install two new "Beta No Litta" billboards in the near future. One will be located just outside Belize City on the Western Highway, and the second on the Hummingbird Highway, south of the National Show Grounds, before Belmopan. Hopefully, these visual reminders will help keep the "Beta no Litta" attitude alive.

BETA was the subject of a feature article in Archipelago, The Official Journal of the Society for Ocean Studies published four times a year by the Pigeon Key Foundation for the Society of Ocean Studies. A copy of the article is attached for the files of the BTIA Secretariat.

BETA was represented at a meeting of the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) on February 4, 1997, at the Belmopan Convention Center Hotel by Jim Bevis. My impressions are that it was a very constructive, intense workshop concentrating on semantics. The level and quality of participation by concerned Belizeans was high, which was good to see. My impressions regarding PACT are:

- That the budget and accounting need to be transparent, so that the pubic will know how the money is being spent.

- The way the Act is written, the Minister of Natural Resources can select every member of the PACT Board if he so chooses. This unilateral decision making is contrary to democracy and could prove detrimental to the Trust.

PACT, as it appears to be developing will be good for conserving and enhancing the Protected Areas and cultures of Belize and deserves BTIA's wholehearted support.

"Going Backwards"

Second Dam for Hydroelectric Project: There is evidence that a second dam on the Upper Macal River in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, is in the planning and is desired by B.E.L. and Government, despite fervent objections from the conservation community as the result of the environmental impact studies which were done by a multi-national team composed of scientists from Canada and those living and working in Belize. The second dam would provide a reservoir for the first dam, flooding a large important protected area and vital wildlife corridor. It is essential that an accurate economic assessment be completed comparing it with the tremendous negative impact on natural resources. The area that could be flooded could be as much as 4,970.67 acres. If alternative, cost-effective energy sources are identified, there would be no reason to destroy this pristine area, home of the Scarlet Macaw, which has been dubbed by many world-renowned scientists as "The Noah's Ark" of Belize. Be forewarned - if this project begins, prepare yourselves for negative International press.

Much negative International press has already occurred as a result of the Government's stance on the Malaysian logging in the San Pedro Columbia Forest Reserve. As a result of a meeting between BETA's President and the Conservation Officer in the Forest Department, it was learned that numerous faxes, telephone calls, and E-mails have been received by the Ministry of Natural Resources from "would-be" tourists who have changed their plans to visit Belize because of the Malaysian policy. A negative article on this subject was published in Newsweek magazine, and has been the subject of numerous Internet forums. I suggest that such messages should be forwarded to the BT.B , BTIA, and BETA.

BETA is vehemently opposed to the capture and exploitation of dolphins as proposed by a Mexican Company, to be a tourist attraction at San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. This is in direct violation of the S.I.91 of 1992, the Wildlife Protection Act, Chapter 181. Page 12 states, "All species of dolphins are protected by law." In a time when most of the world is realizing the errors of their ways concerning captive whales and dolphins, this would be detrimental and diametrically opposed to the whole ethic of eco-cultural tourism. Be prepared for more bad press.

It has come to my attention that tourists are complaining about the road to Caracol. British forces are presently conducting military maneuvers on the road, using Land-Rovers and four-ton trucks during rain or dry, and the condition of the road has deteriorated so that some small four-wheel drive vehicles are unable to make it through, and are getting stuck. A party of tourists was detained overnight at Caracol after getting stuck on their departure. Others reported concern when seeing soldiers dressed in camouflage as they couldn't tell whether the soldiers were authentic or guerrillas. The activities are occurring right now, mid-February, during the height of tourist season. Of concern is the fact that the money to repair the road to Caracol was donated by USAID for the benefit of the tourism industry. One wonders if there aren't other areas within the tens of thousands of acres of Mountain Pine Ridge where the military could conduct their activities?

Conclusions:
I would hope that the national board of BTIA would take these negative issues that could be of a catastrophic nature, both environmentally, and economically, and deal with them as if the viability of the tourism industry itself was at stake. It very well could be. All the good publicity which Belize has received to date and the efforts of the Marketing Committee could be for nothing if we receive the bad press that these issues WILL generate.

Sorry Folks, but it's time to walk the walk, if we're going to talk the talk!

Respectfully submitted,
Jim Bevis
President, The Belize Ecotourism Association
Tel: 092-3310 Fax: 08-3361 E-mail: met@pobox.com




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