Because of the country’s impressive network of protected areas and relatively low population density, the widespread deforestation that occurs in other parts of Central America is not nearly as big a problem in Belize. However, Belize faces its own set of challenges. Perhaps the biggest problem is improper disposal of solid and liquid wastes, both municipal and industrial, particularly agro-wastes from the shrimp and citrus industries.
Mining of aggregates from rivers and streams has negative impacts on local watersheds and the coastal zones into which they empty, where sedimentation can be destructive to reef and other marine systems. Unchecked, unplanned development, especially in sensitive areas like barrier beaches, mangroves, islands, and riverbanks, where changes to the landscape often have wide and unanticipated effects, is another problem.
Energy—or lack thereof—is a major issue for Belize, which has historically had to buy expensive power from neighboring Mexico. The controversial construction of the Chalillo Dam on the upper Macal River brought all of Belize’s energy and environmental issues to the forefront (the saga of Chalillo is told in The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw by Bruce Barcott).
The discovery of oil in 2005 near Spanish Lookout  fueled a market of foreign prospectors hoping to tap into new petroleum resources. Oil exploration concessions have been granted for most of Belize’s land and marine areas, which has caused much concern among environmental groups.
Meanwhile, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was added to the “List of World Heritage Sites in Danger” in 2009 due to concerns over mangrove cutting and excessive development—and efforts to begin offshore oil drilling.