Sunday, July 21, 2024

The Department of the Environment to open office in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

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After years of community requests, the Department of the Environment (DOE) is preparing to open an office in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. The tentative opening date is mid-June, and the office will have jurisdiction over Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and Caye Chapel. The San Pedro DOE office will collaborate closely with the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, further emphasizing the community’s role in this endeavor.
The Chief Environmental Officer Anthony Mai pointed out that the DOE has grown to a critical level where decentralization is necessary. Therefore, Ambergris Caye had to assign an office to regulate the island’s current and future issues. Although the Hol Chan Marine Reserve has always conducted duties on their behalf, he noted that as the fastest-growing tourism destination, it is justifiable to have a DOE office on Ambergris Caye. Mai also recognized the Area Representative, Honourable Andre Perez, for his support. “Minister Perez was the first to suggest a DOE office on the island and kept advocating until it became a reality,” Mai said. Perez also shared with The Sun that it is an accomplishment he is very proud of. He added that the next aim is to open an office for the Forest Department on Ambergris Caye.

San Pedro Town rapidly growing

Some of the primary duties of this office will include compliance monitoring and enforcement of environmental laws through collaboration with other key agencies. It will engage stakeholders and investors on ecological matters and ensure Ambergris Caye develops sustainably through a regulated approach and adherence to environmental laws. The island DOE office will also conduct public awareness and outreach activities while advising the San Pedro Town Council and Caye Caulker Village Council on environmental matters. Another function of the office will be to log complaints from residents. Besides conducting site visits, they will also follow cases of prosecuted violators.

Island residents concerned over increased land filling and dredging

With the establishment of the DOE office on Ambergris Caye, many residents are hopeful for a brighter environmental future. They anticipate that once the office is operational, it will diligently enforce environmental laws, holding those who violate them accountable. San Pedro is a rapidly growing municipality surrounded by a delicate marine environment. The DOE’s presence is expected to strike a much-needed balance between development and conservation, instilling optimism in the community.
DOE was established in 1992 via the enactment of the Environmental Protection Act. It regulates and enforces all the environmental laws of Belize. This government department’s primary mandate is to ensure Belize develops in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. The department also advises the government on all environmental-related issues, fosters collaboration, coordinates all environmental matters, and approves projects, undertakings, and developments that may significantly impact the environment.

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