The Impacts of Tourism Development on Perceptions and Practices of Sustainable Wastewater Management on the Placencia Peninsula, Belize

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Tourism Development, Sustainable Wastewater Management, Resource Recovery, Water-energy Nexus, Ethnographic Research, Belize

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One of the consequences of rapid tourism expansion is abrupt pressure on local keystone resources such as water and energy. While novel wastewater technologies have been designed to close resource cycles and thereby diminish resource stress, little research has been undertaken to assess the coupled social, economic, and ecological components of system sustainability and resiliency in these areas. As a result, local decision makers often lack scientific information needed for making evidence-based and context-sensitive choices about new technologies. Involved stakeholders also lack resources to develop appropriate interventions to address human-environmental changes and unintended consequences. This article employs a grounded approach to sociocultural data analysis to critically examine how human perceptions and practices related to water, wastewater, and energy management in a rapidly growing tourist destination on the coast of Belize enable and constrain decision making with regard to technology adoption. Ethnographic research on the Placencia Peninsula in Belize focused on discerning perceptions of acceptability for the recovery of resources such as energy and nutrients from wastewater, local perceptions of health risks and benefits of such recovery, as well as how economic and environmental advantages of these processes intersect with local demands. Research reveals that local understandings are grounded in cultural practices, historical events and processes, contemporary political and economic issues, and variable awareness of environmental change. This study also reveals that the greatest barriers to the adoption and sustainability of new technologies include sharing technical and economic information broadly and providing opportunities for legitimate multilevel stakeholder participation in decision-making processes.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Cleaner Production, v. 111, issue Part B, p. 430-441