The Department of Environment is continuing its work to prevent a repeat of last year’s stench and condition of the New River. Last year around this time, the health of the New River was in a state of crisis due to Eutrophication. The fish in the river were dying and the river itself had a milky resemblance along with a strong stench. According to Senior Environmental Officer, Anthony Mai currently, the river remains in good condition due to the rains Belize experienced at the beginning of the year. Mai noted that a regional plan has been developed to protect and mitigate the risk of the river returning to the state it was last year.
Anthony Mai, Senior Environmental Officer: “We have just finalized the preparation of a regional project and through this regional project we will receive funds to do several things on the river that we want to do. We need to get some data and for example one of the things we want to do which is we want to establish a nursery so that we begin to get plants for the riparian zone. We want to establish that sixty six feet vegetative buffer along the river. Through the Lands Department we have already mapped out all the owners who own property along the river so that we could engage them to get back the sixty six feet reserve. We have conducted an assessment and we have identified I think 109 areas along the river where the riparian zone has been impacted and so we know exactly where we need to go. Through the funding also we will continue monitoring the water quality of the river for two more years which is excellent and we’ll do this with the assistance of SACD in Corozal. Also we are working with the hydrology unit to purchase equipment that will allow us to monitor the hydrological aspect of the river on a more real time basis which is good and so we have a lot going on in the background. We still continue to monitor, we inspected about seventy one local industries like industries in Orange Walk Town some of the meat shops and some of the tortilla factories and some of the restaurants etc and so we have given them new conditions or at least advise them of measures that they need to put in place to treat their wastewater so that it doesn’t flow into the drain and of the 71 that we have visited I think about 25-30% of them have made some improvements and so what we’re doing now is we’re going back to those that have not made the improvement and we give them additional timeline for them to fix the problem.”
One of the major challenges for the department when dealing with the New River crisis was limited resources. According to Mai, they have been receiving help from the Ministry but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about new challenges.
Anthony Mai, Senior Environmental Officer: “The Ministry has been very helpful in terms of giving us the resources that we need to implement what we need to implement. In fact this regional project that I talked about will provide the necessary financial resources that we need to get some of the things done so that in itself is good. Some of the challenges that we have had is obviously the restrictions of moving around with this COVID-19 issue and even so with the procurement of items from abroad and so as you know we have our own in house water quality laboratory and you know we need to buy reagents to do all the different tests etc and it now it’s a bit more difficult for us to procure some of these items as before it was a bit easier. So the restriction of movement you know we normally need to go out and we need to speak to people on the ground, we need to see their emotions, we need to understand what they’re saying and it is best done face to face and so that in itself is one of the restrictions.”
Mai concluded by stating that several measures have been set to stop the spread of the virus within the department.