The Belize Barrier Reef is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The corals, clear water and the beautiful sand make this place a scene from a fantasy image.
It had this effect on people around the world and was officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. In awe of its beauty, the committee wrote "unmistakable for its size, reef species and the lush beauty of the corals that thrive in immaculate condition … The spectacular, picturesque nature with its bright white sand spikes and green-green mangrove forests stands in dramatic contrast the surrounding azure waters. "
But things were not as good as it had been a few years before. In 2009, the Belize Barrier Reef was added to the list of World Heritage Sites under threat. The place deteriorated at a breathtaking pace, and much of the trauma was felt by the corals themselves.
The coral reefs are not only a safe haven for millions of marine animals, but they also serve the important role of coastal rescue from damage caused by waves and storms. Their ability to fix the oxygen-nitrogen level also makes marine life thrive.
Excessive pollution and contamination from oil wells, lumber companies, and unsustainable developments on the water shifted the entire balance of the reef in just a few months.
The Belize Barrier Reef is not just a small place. It is the second largest coral reef in the world and is only overtaken by the majestic Great Barrier Reef.
In its entirety, the Belize Barrier Reef is home to 400 islands, huge mangroves, three atolls, numerous estuaries and lagoons. So if a place of this magnitude suffered damage that nearly destroyed it, you could imagine how much torture the place would suffer.
But with the Government of Belize's ongoing efforts, the barrier reef made a comeback. At an informal referendum in 201
Specialized teams were formed to evaluate, investigate, and construct a solution to the problem at hand. In 2017, legislators finally adopted a historic moratorium on oil production in Belizean waters. This makes the country one of the first developing countries to consider protecting the natural marine environment from the lucrative fossil fuel.
The government has stopped all oil production since last December.
In light of the efforts, the UNESCO Council praised the country's "visionary plan for the management of the coastline," saying that "the level of conservation we sought has been achieved," as reported by the BBC.
Very few countries would make such courageous decisions, especially if they could influence the overall economy through the involvement of lucrative fossil fuel reserves. But Belize has a much more profitable solution up its sleeve – tourism.
Around 1,400 species of turtles, crocodiles and manatees are at home here and attract large numbers of tourists. Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of the country's GDP. Moreover, half of the country's population depends on tourism or fishing for their livelihood.
Most importantly, the decision to protect the environment is extremely wise and equally beneficial from an economic point of view.