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Jan 31, 2017

Who Authorized Beach Construction at Caye Chapel?

Has the Department of the Environment cleared a planned beach creation on the popular island of Caye Chapel without the benefit of an environmental impact assessment? The question came up on the adjournment in Monday’s meeting of the Senate in Belmopan. P.U.P. Senator Valerie Woods reported that the owners of the project want to do what’s called a ‘beach creation’ – that’s a beach club and sales center and the creation of a beach area measuring nine hundred and eighty-five feet long by ninety-eight feet wide. She questioned why in this particular case, which occurred two days before Christmas, there was a need to ignore the dictates of the Supreme Court, which set guidelines as to how to handle these issues with the Harvest Caye decision of a year ago.

 

Valerie Woods

Valerie Woods, P.U.P. Senator

“It was a clearance that was issued, for a pilot beach project for Caye Chapel, and it was issued on December twenty-third of last year. It’s under a year given the ruling provided by the Supreme Court regarding E.I.A.’s. But it was issued when E.I.A. process really has not even been vetted, or if you will, when it hasn’t even been brought before the NEAC on the larger portion of that project. And so, I am concerned, as so many others, when they see things like this happening, because it defies the very integrity and intent, if you will, of why we have those good laws on the books. It is to respect a process; to ensure that any development, particularly the bigger ones, that they are done at all times in the best interest of Belize, but taking into consideration the input, of not just the developer, and not just members of NEAC, but to allow members of NEAC that opportunity to consult with communities as well as the other regulatory bodies. So on December twenty-third, the Chief Environmental Officer by way of letter approved this. It’s for a temporary beach club and sales center, but it is to develop the beach area and it is only part of that larger mega development on that island. And just to put some context briefly, it was back in 2014 regarding the same natural resource, that same island, that C.E.O. Michael Singh, then in BELTRAIDE, quite accurately stated to those developers in writing that an EIA needs to be done to develop what they intended to develop there. And because the Chief Environmental Officer in his capacity for Government was part of that Supreme Court matter, he’s fully aware of same, of the processes, and so I am disappointed that we did not allow or have not yet allowed for that process to conclude itself, before approving any portion of it, whether it be temporary or not.”

 

Today, we tried to check with Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria, however, we were told that he attended the weekly Cabinet meeting, then flew out of the country to Costa Rica and will return next week. Senator Woods noted that any dredging activity will impact the fisherfolk in the surrounding area and at a minimum they should be asked for their input. Leader of Government Business Godwin Hulse said he had not known of the approval and promised to check into it. He further reminded that the five-point investment checklist remains in place to filter out investments that do not provide the maximum returns for Belize.

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