DOE’s CEO speaks on the approval of Port of Magical Belize
Friday, April 16th, 2021
The Chief Environmental Officer at the Department of Environment (DOE), Martin Alegria, spoke about the approval for the construction and operation of the cruise port – Port of Magical Belize. This massive project will be built at the mouth of the Sibun River in the Belize District. Alegria explained the process taken to approve the project. According to him, some significant concerns and project risks had to be addressed before they granted clearance.
According to him, in February of 2019, Port of Magical Belize developers submitted a proposal. At the end of that month, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was requested, and in March and April, DOE developed the terms of reference for the EIA.
Alegria told the media that it was not until January 2020 that they present the EIA to the developers. This first draft was reviewed to see if it complied with the terms of references for completeness. The process involved a back and forth with the investors until it was satisfactory; the EIA was then sent to NEAC. At the end of June 2020, NEAC met virtually and reviewed it. Additional information was reportedly requested by NEAC, and supplemented information was presented, addressing the key issues of concern.
NEAC revisited the EIA for Port of Magical Belize at the end of August 2020. A third meeting to again review the document took place in October when additional supporting information was requested. Alegria said that in February of this year, NEAC met again, and after considering all the information provided, the decision was made to approve the said EIA. He also added that such a decision was made based on certain conditions NEAC either clarified, imposed, or negotiated with the developer/s.
Alegria said potential environmental impacts were addressed
The announcement of the development’s approval prompted an outcry from the environmental community. Many groups claim the government is not looking at the larger picture and that such massive projects can destroy natural habitats/environments. Alegria said ensuring the most negligible impact on the environment was one of the significant issues of concern and discussion.
One of the factors addressed in the approval process by NEAC was the proposed significant dumping of dredge waste into the sea. “In this specific case, that issue was discussed in terms of methodologies to be used, precautionary measures to protect the environment and also the disposal sites, where they are going to dispose of the material,” he said. This is referring to the dredge waste material. According to him, the project identified two disposal sites, one of them on the mainland. The dredge waste that might not be useful is to be dumped at one of these designated sites. The other site would receive the more usable material.
DOE’s CEO emphasized that environmentalist’s concerns were not ignored. He said that the whole issue of potential cumulative impacts was addressed. “We do take those issues into consideration in terms of if there are certain amounts of development within a geographical area,” Alegria said. He added that those issues are considered from the environmental perspective and not from the economic, socio, or political point of view.
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