ORANGE WALK TOWN, Fri. Apr. 23, 2021– The Department of the Environment (DOE) has strengthened its efforts to monitor the activities at the Belize New River. For over 2 years the Belize New River has been beset by depleted oxygen levels and an increase in large-scale fish deaths with no known cause.
Since becoming aware of the crisis at the Belize New River in 2019, the department has been monitoring the river’s water quality and actively investigating industries and urban centers to ensure compliance with the environmental laws, in addition to monitoring agricultural systems to minimize runoff into the river.
A release by the Government of Belize Press Office says that the department will develop an Integrated New River Watershed Management Plan. This plan will be devised in October of this year and will present all corrective measures that will be brought forward to improve the current condition of the river.
The DOE has also received funding that will finance continuous water quality monitoring and research that will span over 2 years. This research include the monitoring of 20 key sample zones between the inland lagoon and the Corozal Bay on a monthly basis, and the collection and analysis of water samples from each key zone. The department also plans to partner with international researchers to enhance the monitoring and research efforts at the site.
The Department of Environment has called on stakeholders who have a vested interest in the protection of the river and surrounding businesses to join the call for preserving and improving the river’s water quality. Since the start of this initiative, “40 out of the 79 light industries in Orange Walk Town have improved their wastewater and greywater discharge from their facilities,” says a Government of Belize Press Office release. Additionally, the department has ensured that the major sugar companies in the surrounding areas improved their wastewater treatment systems and develop cooling towers.
“The DOE, within the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk
Management, stresses that the restoration of the New River ecosystem health must be an integrated and collaborative process,” stated the Government of Belize Press Office. The DOE has since reconvened the New River Task Force and is currently asking for participation in the river’s restorative process. The DOE encourages all who wish to be involved, to contact the Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria, at 822-2819 for more information.