By Michelle Sutherland
Several environmental organizations will converge on the steps of the National Assembly building in Belmopan City, at 10:00 a.m., on Friday March 10, in the hopes changing government’s stance as it relates to the protection of the Belize Barrier Reef and offshore oil exploration.
Recently the group, comprised of World Wildlife Fund and its coalition partners, staged an online petition to collect signatures for the ongoing Save Our Heritage campaign to protect the Belize Barrier reef, hoping it will be removed from the UNESCO endangered list.
The petition has garnered more than 265,000 signatures and is considered one of the largest petition gatherings in Belize. As a symbolic gesture, there will be a small parade near the National Assembly building, after which the boxes with the petitions will be delivered to the Prime Minister.
Advocacy leader, Valentino Shal, told the Reporter that the group’s primary goal is for government to speed up their actions to protect the reef so that it can be removed from the UNESCO endangered list. The group also wants GOB to pass the necessary laws to ban offshore oil exploration. Shal said that the Government was supposed to present UNESCO with an updated plan of steps taken to protect the reef, which was to be submitted on February 1, but to date none has been provided.
The Belize Barrier Reef is considered the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere, and was named one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites in 1996. The site was then put up on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites in danger in 2009.