Belize is celebrating World Water Day this year by holding a two day summit featuring various organizations that protect, preserve and process H2O. This year’s theme is “Water and Jobs” and representatives of the Ministry of Health, Hydrology Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development, Public Utilities Commission, Department of the Environment, Belize Water Services Limited, Crystal Water Limited, National Climate Change Office, University of Belize and the Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL) are making presentations on the importance of Belize’s water sheds and the income generating opportunities they present.
Belize’s 16 water sheds are the Rio Hondo River, Belize River, New River, Sibun River, Moho River, Temash River, Sarstoon River, Monkey River, Manatee River, Mullins River, Deep River, Golden Stream River, Rio Grande River, North Stann Creek and South Stann Creek.
These rivers drain the Maya Mountains and provide vital nutrients to the Great Barrier Reef System in the Caribbean Sea. “Our magnificent reef system is of immense socio-economic significance to Belize because it provides employment and a source of income to thousands of people living in adjacent communities,” says Sharon Ramclam-Young, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources. “Tourism and agriculture, acknowledged to be the bedrock of the Belize economy, are completely dependent on the care or our [water based] ecosystem.”
Governments around the world are developing strategic plans to preserve water sheds. “Government is tasked to lead efforts to care for this water, to seek its fair distribution, and to facilitate its wise use for, among other things, social and economic development,” says Ramclam-Young. To achieve this goal, the National Assembly has passed the National Integrated Water Resources Act, featuring the National Water Policy, which outlines priority areas of focus for responsible water management under three premises: equity, efficiency and sustainability. Rudolph Williams, considered to be Belize’s leading hydrological expert, was a strong proponent of this legislation. The Hydrology Department acknowledged Williams’ work at the World Water Day ceremony on Tuesday, March 15, and presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation for his contribution to the country.
An international day to celebrate and mark the vital importance of freshwater was recommended at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The UN General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. Each year, World Water Day is celebrated on March 22 and it highlights a specific aspect of freshwater.
Belize’s Water Policy states: “Belizeans have a fundamental right to water and it is hereby declared that the policy of the Government is to bring about the planned development, coordinated management, sustainable use and protection of Belize’s water resources consistent with the social, economic and environmental needs of present and future generations, and to ensure that all Belizeans have access to affordable, safe, adequate and reliable water.”