Belize Government Dumps Landfill Plans

April 23, 2001 -- Public outcry in Belize over a proposed landfill moved the government to abandon plans to dump the nation`s garbage in an environmentally fragile area along the Sibun River, close to communities and tourist attractions.

Advocates at the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) asked E-LAW U.S. to review the project`s environmental impact assessment (EIA). E-LAW U.S. staff found numerous omissions and flaws. The EIA included a recommendation that the landfill do without a liner because the impermeability of clay soil would act as a "natural" liner and prevent toxins from leaching into the groundwater and running off into the nearby Sibun River! Communities along the Sibun use the river to bathe and fish, and many residents use well water for drinking. These citizens were concerned about contamination of water resources and the logic of a single, large national landfill.

BELPO disseminated information about the problems with the site chosen for the landfill and supported the communities in the area who were not consulted, as required by Belize`s EIA law. BELPO raised concerns about leachate contaminating the Sibun River; the efficiency of a single national landfill; and the location of the landfill next to the Tropical Education Center, less than a mile from the Belize Zoo.

Environmental advocates mobilized citizen opposition to the proposed landfill site and suggested a more appropriate site with less impact on communities and less potential for environmental damage. The government agreed to relocate the proposed landfill.

According to a local newscast, the "turnaround came after strident opposition from a coalition of environmental groups and local residents."

E-LAW U.S. has been working with Belizean advocates and citizen groups since 1999. We have focused our work on helping local lawyers use and improve existing law to protect Belize`s rich natural environment. Working with partners in Belize, we organized four workshops across Belize to train lawyers and citizen leaders in how to participate in decisions about the environment and make their concerns about proposed projects heard.

We congratulate advocates at BELPO for their hard work and dedication to protecting the environment!