Toledo Burns While Government Stands Idle

Toledo Burns While Government Stands Idle

Wed, 06/05/2024 - 13:26
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By: Omar Silva, Editor: National Perspective Bz DIGITAL

Belize City: Wednesday 5th June 2024

 As the Toledo District continues to suffer under the onslaught of devastating wildfires, the government's response remains woefully inadequate. With 400 farmers across 28 communities already affected and millions in damages, it is clear that our leaders are failing us at the most critical moment.

The government has declared a state of public emergency and convened high-level meetings, yet these actions ring hollow without a proactive and effective strategy. Instead of planning for the aftermath, the government must confront the crisis head-on. The absence of aerial firefighting equipment is a glaring deficiency, but even more unforgivable is the lack of initiative to seek assistance from neighboring countries that could provide the necessary resources to combat these fires from the air.

Kennedy Carrillo, CEO of the Ministry of Disaster Risk Management, and other officials have highlighted the collaborative efforts of communities, NGOs, and the Belize Defence Force in battling the flames. However, their visit to affected communities, while providing valuable data, underscores the reactive mindset that pervades the government's approach. Listening to the heart-wrenching stories of farmers who have lost their livelihoods is important, but it is not enough. Action, not just sympathy, is needed.

The initial damage assessment estimates over three million dollars in losses, but as the fires continue to flare up, the true cost remains unknown. While the government talks about supporting farmers and rural citizens displaced by the blazes, the immediate need is for a robust and comprehensive firefighting strategy. The anticipated rains may bring some relief, but relying on weather patterns is not a strategy; it is a gamble with the lives and livelihoods of our people.

Carrillo’s statement, "We are fully conscious that on a daily basis we continue to see more fires flaring up in different parts of the Toledo district," should be a wake-up call. Yet, the government's response is lethargic, focusing on data collection and planning for recovery rather than taking decisive action to extinguish the fires. This reactive approach is unacceptable. We must demand better from our leaders.

Representation from various ministries, including National Security, Rural Transformation, and Public Utilities, shows that the government is aware of the crisis. But awareness without action is meaningless. Where is the urgent request for international assistance? Why are we not leveraging relationships with neighboring countries to bring in aerial firefighting support? The government's inaction in this regard is a dereliction of duty.

The proverb "While the grass grows, the horse dies" is painfully apt. While our leaders plan and strategize, our communities burn, our farmers lose their crops, and our environment suffers irreparable damage. The time for action is now. We cannot afford to wait for the rains or for the fires to burn out on their own. We must take the bull by the horns and confront this crisis with the urgency it demands.

Our leaders must be held accountable for their failure to act decisively. The people of Toledo deserve better. They deserve a government that will fight for them, not just plan for their recovery after the fact. It is time for a shift from reactive to proactive governance. The fires in Toledo are a crisis that requires immediate, decisive action. Anything less is unacceptable.