Eleven environmental associations in Belize have written to both Minister of Sustainable Development Orlando Habet and CEO Doctor Kenrick Williams to raise concerns about plans to build two causeways on the coast. In September, the Feinstein Group announced that coming soon are the two causeways, one from Belize City to North Drowned Caye and a second from North Drowned Caye to Stake Bank. Plans for both these causeways date back to 2007 and for fourteen years, the environmental NGOs have been sounding the alarm. But, according to information shared with the NGOs by the Ministry, an environmental compliance plan, a document greenlighting the plan was approved in 2019. Arreini Palacio-Morgan is the Executive director of the Southern Environmental Association, one of the eleven groups who wrote the Minister. She told Love News all 11 organizations are requesting a status update on the approval of the causeways.
Arreini Palacio, Executive Director, S.E.A.: “It came to our attention actually maybe a few months ago when the developer put up a billboard in Belize City announcing the coming of the causeway. So we did our usual research. ECPs (Environmental Compliance Plans) are public documents and they’re placed on the Department of the Environment’s Website. We did our research there and we couldn’t find the environmental compliance plan so we did write a letter to the minister, to the CEO who chairs the NIAC for further information regarding the ECP itself. We were under the impression that maybe there was no ECP however the minister and the CEO were gracious enough to entertain a few of our conservation partners in a meeting whereby they did state that there was an ECP granted in 2019. Our request not is just to take a look at that ECP for us to not only see the ECP but for us to look further at having a more transparent process, a process that includes civil society as well as public partners when granting ECPs and so if there’s going to be an amendment to a project, an adjustment to a project always bring it back to the public and for us to be able to understand and appreciate and have feedback especially in a component as large as the causeways.”
Going forward, Palacio-Morgan says, consultations with stakeholders and the wider public are absolutely essential.
Arreini Palacio, Executive Director, S.E.A.: “Definitely we would support having another round of consultations if it involves the causeway. The potential impacts to the marine environment would be great. We’d want the opportunity to be able to present these impacts, hear what the mitigation plan would be, how best to resolve those or not to have the project any at all. But to bring it to the public so that we could all have an opinion and feed into developments that affect us especially on the coastal side of Belize.”
She also added that the Belize Network of NGOs wish to be an important stakeholder in the monitoring of these ECPs for not just this project, but for similar ones in the future.