Let’s not wait until 2028 - The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions Print E-mail
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Written by By Rudolph Williams   
Thursday, 18 January 2018 00:00

Last week I reiterated the need for urgent action on sustainable development Goal 6 (SDG 6).  I urged that we not wait until the end of the New Decade for Action on SDG 6 to begin activities that will lead to its achievement.  If the achievement of SDG 6 is unsuccessful, the other 11 SDGs will also be unsuccessful.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations reminds us of the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.  He commented that water ?ows through the three pillars providing the essential services that are the keys to achieving poverty reduction, inclusive growth, public health, food security, lives of dignity for all and long-lasting harmony with earth’s essential ecosystems.  Belize is well endowed with water resources, we are however bound by the limits imposed by its finite nature and vulnerability to natural and anthropogenic stresses.  Such water resources vulnerability can be mitigated by the way these resources are managed to provide services and benefits.

Oftentimes we look at activities that can produce significant benefits to the nation through our myopic lens without considering the long term negative outcomes.   We all know, and are feeling the effects of that well known aphorism “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions”.  Because of this wealth in water resources we seldom consider the long term negative effects of programs/activities with good intentions on Belize’s water resources.

One of the negative impacts the once thriving Monkey River Town is currently experiencing is the rapid recession of its shoreline and the accompanying loss of properties.  There have been many theories on this shoreline’s recession.  The modern day culprit is Climate Change.  Climate Change may be a contributing factor, but the recession did not start with the advent of Climate Change.  If Climate Change was the only culprit many other coastal communities would have had the same experience.  The simplistic basics of beach formation near an estuary is from the sediments deposited at the river mouth during flood events.  Such sediments are distributed along the coastline by the longshore currents. During non-flood events the beach is eroded by wave action and rebuilt during the next flood season.  If the natural balance of these basic ingredients; flood events, sediment supply, longshore currents, and wave action is upset, we get situations such as the Monkey River Village beach erosion/recession.  Simple, just like that.  Add Climate Change impacts and the recession is accelerated.

What does this have to do with SDG 6? It is all about proper watershed and water resources management.  You see, activities in the upper watershed impacts the maintenance of the natural balance of the supply of the ingredients necessary for the replenishment of the beach.  Without calling names the magnitude of flood events were/are impacted by water abstractions from both branches, Swasey and Bladen, of the Monkey River for irrigation and processing of Banana and Aquaculture.  Reduction in magnitude of floods lead to flood events with lower sediment loads and smaller deposits at the mouth of the Monkey River.  As if that was not enough, the Swasey and the Bladen branches have very excellent sedimentary deposits that are ideal for road and building construction.  These deposits are prime targets for mining.  Now mining removes a large amount of the sediments from the river banks, sediments that are destined for the Monkey River estuary.  The activities in the upper watershed are resulting in lower magnitudes of floods and the consequent smaller sediment deposits.  Now, if the longshore currents remains unchanged and the wave action is greater you have the deadly recipe for the Monkey River Village situation.  Monkey River Village is not the only victim of this deadly recipe, so is the North Stann Creek.  Who is next?

The banana and aquaculture industries are great contributors to the nations GDP. Road and building construction employ many Belizeans.  Many of the buildings are Tourism facilities that employ many more Belizeans and fuel the nation’s primary foreign exchange earner.  All of these activities have Good Intentions.  Ask the residents of Monkey River Village about the HELL they are experiencing.  The once thriving Town has been reduced to a vanishing village.  If water resources was managed in a coordinated manner, where the issuing of abstraction permits in the upper watershed considered the long term impacts on other sectors, Monkey River Village would have had a fighting chance to be an active participator in all the programs/activities with Good Intentions.

The SDG 6.5 seeks to implement integrated water resources management at all levels by 2030 and SDG 6.6 seeks to protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes by 2020.

There may still be hope for Monkey River Village beach.  Let’s not wait until 2028; the end of the Decade of Action. Let’s rally around the success of the SDG 6.