By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
The Belize Tourism Industry Association has threatened to file a judicial review of National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC)’s approval of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) if a public hearing is not conducted.
The BTIA wrote to Martin Alegria, chief environmental officer of the Department of the Environment (DOE). The letter was signed by attorney Godfrey Smith.
Herbert Haylock, president of the BTIA , confirmed the authenticity of the letter.
Haylock stated that their specific request is for a public hearing to be held on the issue. Haylock explained that if they do not receive a response from the DOE within the next two-weeks, the BTIA will seek further legal action.
The move is the result of information from Mike Heusner, BTIA’s representative on the appraisal committee, that the NCL Harvest Caye development was approved at a NEAC meeting held on March 4.
Heusner had previously told The Reporter that Alegria himself had confirmed to him that the project had been approved with certain unspecified conditions.
The letter to Alegria stated that NEAC failed to follow statutory procedure when approving the EIA by failing to consider whether or not to recommend a public hearing as is required by Regulation 25 (1) (c) of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations.
NEAC is also accused of approving an EIA that failed to comply with the requirements under Regulations 5 and 19 of the EIA Regulations among other procedural improprieties.
Stewart Krohn, Chairman of the Placencia chapter of the BTIA, said they are very serious about taking the issue to court if there is no response from the DOE.
According to Krohn, NCL’s EIA was the most inadequate ever presented to the public and key economic and environmental issues were never addressed.
Krohn also stated that based on the recent behaviour of the DOE, in terms of accessibility, that he isn’t optimistic about receiving a response from Alegria within the two-week period BTIA has stipulated.
In January, NCL faced heavy public criticism and clear opposition during public consultations in the Independence Village. Following this consultation the NEAC hearing was postponed indefinitely until the NCL amended their EIA.
NCL intends to build a major cruise tourism port at Harvest Caye, however, many southern stakeholders maintain that the project is in contradiction with the Belize National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan, which was prepared in 2011 and endorsed by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and the Government of Belize.
The Master Plan specifically stated: “Pocket Cruise tourism is the only acceptable form of cruise tourism in South Eastern Coast Belize.”