The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) thanks Dr. Guy Lanza for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his valuable experience and knowledge with us for the benefit of the people of Belize and our rivers. He first answered our call for help in 2009 when the Chalillo Dam was spewing sedimentation from the Macal River to the Belize River to the sea. He has done this because he values rivers, people and ecosystems, not for personal profit.
Let us add that his opinion and advice were based on the Government Press Release of 9 September 2019, not on anything BELPO said. We shared his comments with the Department of the Environment and the Geology and Petroleum Department but received no response.
When Dr. Lanza saw the Department of Environment press conference on September 20, he voiced his frustration to hear public “servants” make confusing or misleading statements.
Dr. Lanza’s comments were that aeration could cause the release of toxic contaminants and harmful microorganisms if the bottom sediments were stirred up during the addition of air.
He advised caution and suggested that the sediments should be checked for harmful materials to get some sense of what is present in the bottom muds before aeration. He stated:
“Responsible environmental officials should always use caution before proceeding with new ‘corrective methods’ in contaminated rivers and lakes to avoid any risk to the people and the environment in general. It’s obvious that Mr. Ek prefers to act without proper precaution. Very unwise! It’s also very obvious that it has been the historical neglect by environmental authorities in Belize in properly monitoring and enforcing the Effluent Limitations and Pollution Regulation that have led to the lack of oxygen and its associated pollution that then led to the need and added expense of corrective aeration. A sustainable long-term solution to the pollution problems in the New River is to prevent the addition of additional contaminants to the water and sediments by enforcing the regulations designed to protect the environment. Allowing the contaminants to flow downriver to the sea is not a solution and poses health risks to the people of Belize, the ocean ecosystem, and its valuable coral reefs. That approach basically transfers the contaminated problem to other ecosystems and clearly makes matters worse.”
BELPO believes in the precautionary principle which is a strategy to cope with possible risks where scientific understanding is yet incomplete. It cautions that it is better to gather plausible scientific information before taking action that has the potential to cause negative and irreversible damage. Simply put, it means “look before you leap”, or “better safe than sorry”.
This is our interpretation of what Dr. Lanza is advising.
George & Dr. Candy Gonzalez