The Department of the Environment (DOE) has shared with the public the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the project at the Port of Belize. The assessment, led by Nextera Environmental and Engineering Consultants, is one step which the Ashcroft-related Waterloo is hoping will advance the Port of Belize’s Cruise and Cargo Facility. However, as Love News reported, the project’s environmental compliance plan was rejected by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee, a group led by CEO Doctor Kenrick Williams. Now that the ESIA is up on the department’s website for everyone to read, we asked whether the 455-page report addressed the six major concerns raised by NEAC. Chief Environmental Officer, Anthony Mai spoke on that issue late this evening.
Chief Environmental Officer, D.O.E.: “At this point in time it’s a bit early to say so and I’m saying that because there is a process that needs to be followed. The law states clearly that the NIACC is the body who advises the DOE of a DOA and so what the DOE has done in this early stage is we have looked at the DIA report that they submitted in comparison to the approved terms of reference. So the officers went and looked at the report, read it, looked at the terms of reference and see if it has, if the report captures what was requested in the TOR. In the first draft, we had some concerns and some comments and we submitted those comments to the company. The company submitted the second draft. We believe that the document could be considered final. So when the document goes now to the NIACC and the NIACC review, the NIACC then will make a determination if the information is indeed adequate for them to make a final decision.”
Even at this early stage, we asked Mai whether there was any sense of optimism that the concerns raised by NEAC were at least acknowledged and whether the project, planned for Belize City’s south side, can proceed. Mai said in essence that we’re not quite there yet.
Chief Environmental Officer, D.O.E.: “The department remains neutral as a technical and responsible body, we have to be guided by the committee and remember the committee is comprised of 16 senior technical personnel within Belize and also it is multifaceted in terms of, we have people from within Government. We have NGOs. We have private sector representatives. We have academia representatives and so it would be irresponsible of us to have an opinion on the project as of now. We are always guided and we will continue to be guided by the advice of the NIACC. We would hope that by initiating this, well all projects, we would hope that the information that is provided meets the scientific rigours so that the document could be technically sound and that the information provided is indeed factual and accurate. So that is one of the things that we looked at at the DOE.”
Nextera concluded that all identified environmental impacts can be mitigated to acceptable levels if the measures defined in the Environmental and Social Management Plan and assurances are carefully implemented and monitored. The report finds that the project is feasible from an environmental safeguards point of view and will contribute to poverty reduction through increased employment and sale of goods and services and improved conditions for foreign and domestic trade. We continue to follow the story.