Oil Development Threatens Indigenous Lands in Belize

E-LAW Launches Unity Tour

E-LAW partner Antoinette Moore is a member of the legal team working with the Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management (SATIIM) to challenge the oil exploration in court. Antoinette worked with E-LAW partners in Belize, Costa Rica and the U.S. to inform communities in Belize about the real impact of oil development and steps communities can take to protect indigenous lands and natural resources.

Antoinette sent the following report:

Sarstoon Temash was designated a protected area in 1997 and joined the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance in 2005. For the last decade, the indigenous Maya who live around the park have restricted their entry into and use of the Park`s resources, in accordance with the law governing protected areas.

E-LAW partners Candy Gonzalez of Belize and Emily Yozell of Costa Rica met with members of SATIIM in the Toledo District of southern Belize to offer their experience. SATIIM, which is led by Garifuna and Maya community members, co-manages the Park with the government of Belize.

Emily Yozell and Enrique Joseph of Costa Rica shared their strategies fighting oil development in Costa Rica. Candy shared her experience challenging the construction of the Chalillo Dam. Emily and Enrique visited surrounding villages and spoke with members of the tourist industry and others concerned about oil development.

SATIIM filed a legal challenge to the oil exploration in May, after learning that the Forest Department of the Belize Ministry of Natural Resources had granted US Capital Energy Belize, Ltd. a permit to conduct seismic testing in the Park. E-LAW U.S. scientists prepared expert affidavits on seismic testing and its potential environmental impacts.

E-LAW U.S. made it possible for Emily and Enrique to travel to Belize and helped SATIIM and others in Belize mount the legal challenge.

On June 8, the Supreme Court of Belize granted an injunction stopping further seismic testing in the Park pending the outcome of the court case, which is set for final hearing in July.

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E-LAW partner Antoinette Moore is a member of the legal team working with the Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management (SATIIM) to challenge the oil exploration in court. Antoinette worked with E-LAW partners in Belize, Costa Rica and the U.S. t