The environmental NGOs have written a letter to the Ministry of Environment pointing out that there remain several unanswered questions regarding the proposed Port of Belize expansion project and Waterloo’s resubmitted ESIA.
by Khaila Gentle
BELIZE CITY, Sun. Sept. 25, 2022
Belize’s environmental NGOs have submitted a four-page letter to the CEO of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and chairperson of the National Environment Appraisal Committee (NEAC), Dr. Kenrick Williams, in which they pose several questions regarding Waterloo’s proposed port expansion project that they believe remain unanswered.
The letter, dated September 14, calls into question the validity of the Port of Belize’s second Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and whether or not the developers have been compliant with national and international policy. Specifically, it highlights the fact that the submission of a new ESIA by the Port of Belize goes against the EIA appeal process that is supposed to be undertaken when an assessment is denied.
Following the NEAC’s rejection of Waterloo’s first ESIA in 2021, procedure demanded that the developers submit an appeal of the decision. Instead, the Port of Belize, this year, resubmitted a “new” ESIA that the NGOs claim includes no significant changes.
“We request the Department’s official update on whether the appeal process was triggered and documentation of proof of such,” states the letter.
The NGOs also criticize what they call a relatively fast-tracked process that was adopted for the review of the new ESIA, “despite a number of significant concerns on multiple fronts.”
Much like the coalition of NGOs, the chairperson of the UBAD Educational Foundation, YaYa Marin Coleman, has been consistent in questioning the legality of Waterloo’s resubmitted ESIA. During the public consultation held regarding the proposed development at the beginning of this month, Marin Coleman questioned representatives from the Department of the Environment on why Waterloo was allowed to resubmit their application rather than having the process halted altogether.
The Environmental NGOs letter then goes on to outline a number of questions that remain unanswered in regards to the proposed cargo port and cruise tourism project, including whether the Ministry of Health has addressed the potential health issues that could result from the project, how the Government has adhered to the World Heritage Site commitments and Environmental Impact Assessment regulations (2022 amendments), and what the return on investment for permanently altering or destroying the environment is when the case for the expansion of the cruise tourism market has not been made.
The NGOs also posed questions related to the dredging implications of the project, demanding that the project developers retract their statement that dumping dredged material offshore is a necessary option.
Just as they stated in their letter to the Prime Minister earlier this month, the group of NGOs has recommended that the ESIA be halted in its entirety until all questions have been addressed.