COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 37 (En Español)
The world in its entirety finds itself under the grip of one of biggest pandemics in world history. The spread of the virus has a massive impact beyond only the health and economic systems of all nations. It also has a significant impact on the environment. These environmental consequences have been highlighted and analyzed from different angles and perspectives. On the positive side, it is simply wonderful to observe how the flora and fauna have taken a much needed breath and a few species have resurged in numbers over the last months. In the other hand, not so positive situations have also resurged as collateral effects of the anthropogenic damage.
In this brief report, I will aim to mention and describe some decisions taken place in each Central American country related to the environment during the current crisis.
Since the beginning of the pandemic when countries in the region began sounding the alarm while enacting preventive measures, governmental authorities and environmental experts in Costa Rica began establishing guidelines and recommendations to maintain the population thoroughly informed. The opinions from several experts on environmental preservation and management encourage everyone to analyze this new opportunity nature has given us. Individuals are ultimately responsible for utilizing natural resources in a responsible and controlled manner.
Furthermore, there are several organizations at the Central American level which encourage members to collaborate and to support initiatives in favor of environmental protections.
The government of Guatemala has shown a significant amount of responsibility for the environment as it calls for a responsible and conscientious usage of natural resources by its population. The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources in its main webpage publishes a practical guide concerning COVID-19 in order to manage residues which are highly contaminating and toxic to the environment. The adequate and careful management of these highly toxic residues is of utmost importance to the Ministry. With an incorrect disposition, these residues finish in empty lots, forests, sea coasts and rivers, raising the environmental threat even more.
In order to protect the environment, the Department of Environmental Patrols from the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources in Guatemala is in charge of the prevention, protection and defense of the environment. During the pandemic, they have enacted a few measures to safeguard the protection of the environment and consequently the protection of the people of Guatemala.
This environmental patrol group is also in charge of supervising the management of sewage treatment in hospitals. There is also a national organization called, Foundation Guatemalan Center for Cleaner Production which has become an important network, together with national authorities, safeguarding the environment.
The environmental situation in Nicaragua suffers from a deficit of several years. Poverty rates, national security and the health crisis among other challenges have deepen the deterioration of the environment in the country. The lack of public institutional support has significantly hindered the ability to coordinate environmental organizations, and it has produced a regrettable situation when it comes to environmental issues. The Coordinator of Natural Resources mentioned that there is a reduction of more than 1,300,000 hectares of forests and a significant number of those belong to protected areas. The Humboldt Organization wrote an article in Spanish called: Impacto del COVID-19 sobre el medio ambiente: tópicos para reflexionar: pp.101-107. En. COVID-19, el caso de Nicaragua. Aportes para enfrentar la pandemia. Segunda edición. Serie: Ciencia, técnica y sociedad ACADEMIA DE CIENCIAS DE NICARAGUA. 198 pp.
As in all of Central America, El Salvador has been severely hit by the pandemic. When it comes the environment, the national authorities have taken some measures to safeguard and protect the most vulnerable groups. The country was already facing an environmental crisis which the government was trying to tackle with different initiatives. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has created a program of environmental incentives and disincentives which aim to promoting processes and activities to prevent contamination and to encourage the sustainable and efficient use of natural resources in the country. Other initiatives are also taking place to lesser the impact of human activities on the environment.
Throughout history, Honduras has been known for its men and women fighting for the environment. The country’s Ministry of Environment has a wide range of environmental responsibilities, including the protection of the environment and supporting the planning of water systems. In its website, the ministry indicates that Honduras countries with massive potential related to the environment and therefore the agency aims to coordinate actions with various stakeholders such as other government agencies, civil society, indigenous and afro-caribbean communities, private sector and the international community. The authorities are looking at obtaining extraordinary results based on national policies and respecting signed international agreements.
The pandemic has slowed down the government’s initiatives on the environment. The deterioration over the past few years has been exacerbated when the government had to redirect economic and financial sources destined to the environment to the pandemic crisis instead. This disinvestment will surely bring grave consequences at mid and long term.
Panama counts with a Ministry of Environment dedicated to consecrate resources to initiatives such as climate change, under its National Plan until 2050. The ministry also tackles other issues such as recycling, reforestation and biodiversity protection. With COVID-19, the national authorities changed gear as they focused more on enacting preventive protocols and measures. In order to protect the environment, the national authorities aim to raise awareness among the population about decreasing the use of air conditioning and creating open spaces in houses, offices, etc. These measures favor the entry of natural air and light and it reduces the high use of energy, benefitting both the national economy and the environment.