There has been much discussion in the last few weeks regarding the alarming state of The New River. It seems though that in this case environmentally conscious individuals and environmentally friendly groups seem to be leading the charge. It is in particular Mr. Orlando de la Fuente who we must thank for sounding the alarm on the whole issue. It is private business entities who have provided aerators as a means to help alleviate the crisis. It is private citizens who are organizing themselves to come up with solutions. Certainly the only reason it has become such an urgent matter is because Mother Nature has come to exact her vengeance for being so badly abused for so long. She has withheld the rains, which have camouflaged the problem for so long, and is now giving us a dose of our own pungent medicine.
The pollution of the river and in fact the destruction of the ecosystem of the area is nothing new. The Department of the Environment (DOE) and related governmental agencies should not have been caught unaware; had they been properly monitoring and doing their jobs. On the side of Government of Belize (GOB) very little has happened. Indeed beyond the deflection of the responsibility from big businesses, that line the river banks and that employ many voters, GOB agencies have been content to state the all too obvious conditions and to regurgitate the litany of causes that got us to this regretful position.
The Northern Districts are home to three sometimes four Ministers of Cabinet. These are the people who remain silent on this most vital issue. There have been no special cabinet resolutions, no press releases, no drafting and rapid passage of laws in the House. We question the apathy and the halfhearted response to this crisis. Is it because there are no kickbacks to be had from saving the environment, or is it simply a lack of leadership and ideas? Can it really be that big business means more to some leaders than the quality of life of the citizens of Belize? Water is often treated as just another resource and it is high time that it be regarded instead as a natural heritage and patrimony to be guarded and protected for future generations of Belizeans.
The myopic tendencies of this GOB cannot understand that the main control mechanism of pollution is based on preventative measures. According to the World Bank Group who touts the Blue Economy Concept, pollution of our environment will cost us more in monetary terms than what we currently save by not taking costlier preventative alternatives that mitigate contamination. After some research we now take the liberty of contributing a few suggestions that may help The New River. Experts believe that there are improvements with removal and drainage of the first 10-20cm of sediment with high Phosphorous concentrations and the removal and treatment of the deep-water in direct contact with the release source of the phosphorus. Some experts recommend the addition of aluminum salts or iron salts or calcium carbonate to precipitate the high levels of phosphorous in the waters.
The old Belizean proverb “when fish come fram rivva battam an tell yu halligetter gat bellyache yu must beleeve anh…” has never had so profound and such a true ring to it. The sad reality is that the fish have died and gone belly up and the poor “halligetter” has too! We must work together and do better to find solutions and prevent further poisoning of our water before we all go belly up! In this our patriotic month, instead of dancing behind trucks and duplicating festivities all the focus must be on saving Belize. Every Belizean must use their voice to advocate for meaningful environmental reforms. Long Live Belize!