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Mar 10, 2016

D.O.E. Analyzes Silt Situation in Southern Foreshore

For weeks now, there has been a build-up of silt in the area of Southern Foreshore in the Belize City Harbor. It’s an eyesore for an area that is traditionally teeming with tourist activity. The waters have receded and have become shallow in some areas; and as the silt builds-up traversing the channel becomes a hazard for boaters. This afternoon, the Ministry of the Environment was called out to the area to analyze the natural phenomenon. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Anthony Mai, Environmental Officer

“It appears to be silt and a built up of silt. Again to be definitive studies need to be done to ascertain exactly what is happening in this area. I am looking at it and it seems to be very serious; it is something that we need to address very urgently.”

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Silt – it is the increased concentration of suspended sediments or sand in water. The water pollution is caused primarily by lose sand or land erosion. For some time now, the Belize City Harbor near Southern Foreshore has been experiencing the build-up of silt and the now murky waters extend to almost half a mile. The sea in that area is rather deep and so when the Department of Environment visited the area today, the extent of the siltation was cause for concern.

 

Anthony Mai

“It’s like dirty water for us. Once you see the water look muddy it is because of silt, it is because of small particles that are suspended in the water. And so as far as…if you look out, you could see there is an area where the water is brown and then it becomes green. So all that area where the water is brown is because of high silt in the water and silt is just fine soil. As you know there is the creek coming into the sea from this side and I know that the Belize River dumps a lot of silt into the Belize City Harbor area as well. And so again, to be definitive, studies need to be done, but I know that silt normally comes down that way north and silt comes out through this river and then the flushing effect with tide comes in normally the water runs back and when the tide goes down the water runs out. Now a phenomenon like that could possible cause this area to have this amount of silt in this particular area.”

 

Anthony Mai

The silt extends several yards from the sea wall in front of the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts, reducing the width of the channel used by boaters. It clearly creates navigational issues particularly for the cruise ship tenders and the local water taxis in the area.

 

Anthony Mai

“In regards to the mariners, again, it seems to me that it could become a navigational issue because all the vessels coming into this harbor basically…the channel is getting smaller and smaller and so you will have fighting for space and that kind of thing and that could lead to navigational issues.”

 

There are many effects of the built up soil in the highly trafficked harbor. Chief among them are the displacement of fishes and the death of other organisms and aquatic plants in the area.

 

Anthony Mai

“What siltation basically does is block the sunlight from going to the bottom of the sea floor, in this case. And so you have fishes in the area…naturally the fish will move out of the area, but you have aquatic plants that cannot move and microorganisms that are basically attached to substrates. Basically those will not be able to move and because the sun does not go all the way down to the bottom because of the amount of silt, all of those organisms basically die. And with a built up like this again this will kill everything. There is nothing basically that could live in a condition like this; hardly anything I should say.”

 

To fix a problem like this, there is need for a collaborative approach from the DOE, the Mining Unit and several key public and private sector agencies. Mai says that there is a maintenance dredging program for the area.

 

Anthony Mai

“I know every couple of years the B.T.B. and the Tourism Village normally request from the department of environment to dredge this particular area, but they haven’t requested a permission to do that for quite a while, couple years, and so I think that needs to be done again.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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