GOB to implement environmental project to protect Key Biodiversity Areas

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Over the next five years the Government of Belize, with assistance from the World Bank, will be implementing a project called ‘Management and Protection of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) in Belize.’ The funding for the project will be facilitated by the Global Environmental Facility and will comprise of technical components covering issues from supporting forest protection and its sustainable management, to institutional strengthening, to the enhancement of environmental regulation enforcement.Key Biodiversity Areas DOE EIA Workshop-1
On Wednesday, June 8th, the management of the KBA project hosted a consultation session to discuss the current Environmental Clearance Process (ECP) or the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Belize at the Coastal Zone Management Authority Institute Training Room in Belize City. Hosting the discussion was Imanol Martin, head of the environmental firm Limia and Martin based in Spain. Martin explained how the project will work under the auspices of the Department of Environment (DOE), with aims of updating and modernizing the actual ECP in order to meet international standards. “Many projects in Belize, before they are approved, need to go through the environmental clearance process. This process is what we want to improve on, in order to better assess the impact of any given project so we can try to and reduce any negative impact on the environment,” said Martin. “The ways to achieve this goal is by bringing together different environmental organizations and hold a consultation where they can share their ideas towards the improvement of the process.”Key Biodiversity Areas DOE EIA Workshop-2
During the consultation, many attendees shared their ideas and expertise about relevant practices that can improve the system. A healthy discussion also revealed the weaknesses of the process. According to some of the attendees, there is inefficient data and limited means to obtain accurate information. In order to successfully manage KBA areas, data needs to be readily available in order to effectively monitor developments. According to DOE representatives, if the right man power and adequate budgeting is available, then the KBA project can become more efficient and properly managed. At the same time, the proper recording of information can assist in determining what projects are suitable for a particular area.
Another discussion focused on the approval of EIAs before going through the process at DOE. It was mentioned that on given occasions, this is where confusion arises, and in the end, can negatively affect both the developer and environment. Additional investment is then needed in order to meet certain criteria, which increases expenses and pressure on the area where the project is taking place. The need for better planning and data collection was emphasized over and over, as it will release the pressure on the DOE and other institutions working on reviewing a potential development. According to the ideas shared at the consultation, once this project has the organization and proper resources allocated, it will save money and time for both the developer and the government.Key Biodiversity Areas DOE EIA Workshop-3
According to Martin, the consultation session was a good opportunity to find out what is indeed the real issue hampering the execution of the ECP. “This is the beginning, to address all these issues in order to enhance the ECP/EIA’s. One part of this project is to bring in participants involved in the ECP to consult them in order to obtain contributions for the improvement we want to accomplish,” said Martin.
In the coming months, there will be follow -ups to visit the plan of the project and keep steering it in the right direction. The project also seeks the possibilities of suggesting changes for the national legislation concerning this topic. A report from the discussions at the consultation will be prepared, and the final verison presented to the participants in order to get additional feedback and find out in which areas the project will work best.

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