Tuesday, July 23, 2024

SPTC raises mangrove-alteration awareness

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The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) is embarking on a significant new project in collaboration with a mission team from the World Bank under the Blue Cities and Beyond Project. This project is not just about nature-based solutions for marine and freshwater management but also about spurring economic growth, attracting investments, and ensuring the well-being of water resources. It’s a crucial initiative to concentrate on coastal areas vulnerable to climate events such as storms, assessing the impact on these “blue spaces.”
The SPTC is implementing a unique process to clean up the beach and restore native species. They use sargasso, a type of seaweed, to replenish the beach and restore the aquatic flora along the shoreline. The team’s objective is to identify resilient measures and investment opportunities and become a model example of “Nature Based Restoration” to enhance climate resilience for the Ambergris Caye. This includes innovative environmental structures for water treatment and solid waste management.

Photo courtesy of San Pedro Town Council

The San Pedro Sun reached out to the council’s science advisor, Valentine Rosado, who has the support of several renowned scientists and engineers. Rosado mentioned, “Mayor Wally Nunez hosted the visiting team. We saw firsthand beach restoration work using NetWare Directory Services (NDS) and sargassum management, as well as paving projects in various neighborhoods of Ambergris Caye. At the concluding workshop in Belize City, one of the presentations focused on our island, San Pedro.” He also stated, “It is expected to expand on the nature-based beach restoration for all of the core town.”

Photo courtesy of San Pedro Town Council

The World Bank is to invest twenty-four million US dollars. The SPTC, with the support and involvement of the public, aims to stop the illegal destruction and alteration of mangroves by emphasizing the need for a permit from the Forest Department and enforcing mangrove regulations. The British High Commission in Belize is also working with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to raise awareness about the importance of mangrove ecosystems for “blue carbon” sequestration and climate risk reduction in Belize and promote their protection.
The Government of Belize reviewed and updated its mangrove regulations in response to this issue. The new regulations underwent a thorough consultation and validation process to prioritize managing and conserving mangroves in critical areas along the mainland coast and cayes. The regulations now account for the crucial role of mangroves in coastal protection, their contribution to the economy, and their aesthetic, ecological, and environmental values and functions in the decision-making process for alteration requests.

Photo courtesy of San Pedro Town Council

The regulations outline the necessary conditions to protect and manage mangrove ecosystems sustainably in the country. They include an improved application process for alteration permits, a new systematic fee system, and more substantial penalties and fines to discourage illegal mangrove alteration.
The offenses and penalties include, that no one is allowed to use pruning paint to alter or selectively trim mangroves, and no one is permitted to modify or selectively trim mangroves using chemical defoliants or herbicides.

Photo courtesy of San Pedro Town Council

In addition to other penalties provided under the Mangroves Regulations, when a person is convicted of an offense, the court may assess the amount of any damage caused by the offender and require the same to be recovered as a civil penalty. According to the Mangrove Act, a permit will subject the developer to an environmental compliance plan.
If a person is convicted of an offense, the court may order the cancellation of any permit granted under the provisions of the Mangrove Regulations and the confiscation of any vehicle, vessel, or other means of transport or equipment used in the commission of the offense. The Forest Department will dispose of all confiscated items with the approval of the Minister.
The SPTC and the Forest Department are following up on reports of noncompliance and encouraging trimming instead of clear-cutting. They are also working towards obtaining the full names of staff so that the building unit can plan joint operations with the Forest Department and the Department of Environment (DOE).
For more compliance information, please visit https://forest.gov.bz/, email [email protected], or call 501 822-1524/501828-4936 for an application for a permit to alter or selectively trim a mangrove as part of ambitious climate commitments in Belize.

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