The entire country of Belize joined in the global event ‘Hands Across the Sand’ that took place on May 16, 2015, as a show of solidarity and work towards ending the globe’s dependency of dirty fuels and support to clean energy. The images of thousands of people around the globe joining hands send a powerful message to world leaders.
And that is what Belizeans across the nation wanted to send across to their government when they joined the global cause, especially during a time when the Belize government is entertaining the idea of allowing offshore exploration that could pose a threat to the nations prized Great Barrier Reef. If oil is found in the country, Belize’s Ministry of Energy has drafted a proposal that provides guidelines for oil exploration and drilling across most of the country’s land and water, including along the Belize Barrier Reef. Environmental advocacy group Oceana Belize has launched a campaign to halt oil exploration and to get more information from the government about the plan and what went into creating it.
Oceana was in charge of organizing the Hands Across the Sand event in Belize and it was successfully held in all the districts around the country including San Pedro, Dangriga, Corozal, Punta Gorda, Belmopan, Orange Walk, San Ignacio, Caye Caulker, Belize City and Placencia. The event had participants holding hands by the shore for 15 minutes as a show of solidarity against offshore oil drilling and sending the message to government that they do not support any of it.
Two years ago, the Belize Supreme Court ruled in favor an Oceana suit to stop offshore oil exploration. Subsequently, though, the injunction was suspended, and two companies, including Princess Petroleum, continue to have exploration rights. According to documents submitted by Belize to UNESCO, the original concession included exploration rights at Great Blue Hole, a renowned underwater sinkhole, but Princess Petroleum voluntarily gave rights to that area up. If oil is not found, the current rights will expire in October 2015, which may be why the government is pursuing a new path to concessions.
But just last week the Prime Minister of Belize told the media that all offshore concessions have expired and none will be renewed, at least not right now.
"All I can tell you is the official position of the government. There is a moratorium on offshore exploration,” commented Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister to Belize City media. “In fact, I've been talking to OCEANA, I've met with Ms Chanona. She's actually going to propose some language that could find its way into some sort of a formal document and I am perfectly happy to take that to cabinet. What I will not do, is to say that there is a proscription that forever there can and will be no offshore exploration. But I am prepared to, as I said, put in writing that there is a moratorium and that moratorium will only be lifted if conditions are right."
Hands Across the Sand / Land, founded in 2010, grew into an international movement after the BP oil disaster in April of that year. People came together to join hands, forming symbolic barriers against spilled oil and to stand against the impacts of other forms of extreme energy. The cause brings together like-minded individuals and organizations with the conviction to organize a Global movement to promote a clean energy future for our earth and end our dependence on dirty fuel sources.
Participants in Belize sent a clear message to government that they do not agree with offshore oil drilling, as it will jeopardize one of the country’s most important natural resources and industries. Oceana Belize continues to be a strong advocate and a voice for the people of Belize to send this strong message against offshore oil drilling in the country.
Hands Across the Sand (Land) event held across the country of Belize:
Hands Across the Sand in Belize City
Hands Across the Sand in Belmopan City
Hands Across the Sand in Dangriga
Hands Across the Sand in Sarteneja
Hands Across the Sand in San Ignacio
Hands Across the Sand in Hopkins