Belize is located on the Caribbean coast of Central America, bordered on the north by Mexico and on the west and south by Guatemala (15° 53’ to 18° 30’N Latitude; 87° 15’ to 89° 15’ W Longitude. It has a land area of 22,960 km2 of which 95 per cent is located on the mainland and 5 per cent is distributed over more than 1,060 islands. The country is well known as the home of the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. This 220 km reef stretches along the entire coastline and is recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. The Government of Belize has also recognized the reef's uniqueness, protecting substantial portions in marine reserves.
Belize is physiographically very diverse because it lies at the boundary between two sharply contrasting geologies. Northern Belize is an extension of the Yucatan Platform, while southern Belize shares the mountainous geology of eastern Guatemala (Fairbridge, cited in UNDP 2011a).
The capital is Belmopan and the total population of Belize is 340,000 (2014, World Bank). The economy is highly dependent on industries based on environmental resources: tourism, agriculture, and fisheries.
For more information see:
Current Issues and Challenges in Wastewater Management
(Source: “Regional Sectoral Overview of Wastewater Management in the Wider Caribbean Region. Situational Analysis” prepared by UNEP-CEP/RCU in 2010.)
- Since 1998, cruise tourism has experienced an unprecedented and probably unsustainable growth from 14,183 visitors in 1998, 575,196 in 2003, to approximately 800,000 in 2007. Cruise ship tourism requires destinations not further than two (2) hours away from Belize City. Marine Reserves such as Hol Chan, Caye Caulker, Goff’s Caye and Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary and terrestrial protected areas along the Western Highway, by extension the Belize River, are the most visited. The necessary infrastructure to host this type of visitation to Belize is currently not in place to accommodate liquid and solid waste being produced. Belize City can therefore be considered as the most critical area with high risks of marine pollution. Land-based tourism is also contributing to the generation of wastewater as more resorts are being built in coastal and off-shore sites.
- Domestic wastewater contaminates surface water by direct discharge into rivers through canals or by emptying buckets into streams, effluents from septic tanks and non-functional sewage treatment plants. Sewage outfall or leachates can lead to high current driven Escherichia coli concentrations contaminating the waters and beaches. Poor water quality can lead to high viral content and infectious diseases, causing problems such as gastroenteritis, cholera and other waterborne illnesses.
- Currently, there is no monitoring program for sewage in the marine ecosystem.
- In addition to the health risk and ecological damage that can result from sewage, pollution is a substantial threat to Belize’s tourism industry. The health of Belize’s marine ecosystem’s flora and fauna and tourism development are integral to the tourist industry on San Pedro Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Belize City, Dangriga, Placencia and Punta Gorda Town.
- The Government recently instituted a policy that requires coastal and island developments to use package treatment plants for sewage treatment (UNEP-CEP, 2009a).