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Oct 3, 2011

Development of St. George’s Caye causing havoc for residents

A multi-million dollar project slated for Saint George’s Caye, on the north-western part of the island started two weeks ago. It is already sparking controversy because of the impact on the fragile ecosystem in the area. The residents of the historic caye have more questions than answers to the proposed development. Chairman John Searle called on the media to show what is taking place on a plot of Mangrove Reserve, and most importantly, of an entire area declared as a historic landmark site. Searle says while the village council wasn’t made privy to the plans at hand, he has done a bit of digging on his own. News Five’s Andrea Polanco went out to the caye today for a wet walk in the wild.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

From the outside these mangroves appear untouched, but at a closer look, you can see surveyors with chain-saw hacking away at the natural habitat on the north-west of St. George’s Caye. While this is just preliminary work to prepare the area for sub-division and construction, in a matter of weeks the damage to the pristine flora of this unique little island might be just another untold story. But for John Searle, Chairman of the St George’s Caye, the details of this proposed development for the area remain a mystery to the village council:

John Searle

John Searle, Chairman, St. George’s Caye

“We know very little on that development, all efforts of trying to get information either from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Lands Department have proven fruitless. The only information we know is little snippets of gossip sort of from residents but it’s suppose to be thirty one lots with a marina in the middle  of it.”

Andrea Polanco

“Okay. From what we’re seeing work already started in that area. Can you speak to us on what you saw when you went out there?”

John Searle

“Yes. The surveyors have now been out here almost two weeks and they’ve been cutting boundary lines in the mangroves and cutting all the cut lines for all the parcels of land.”

About seven to ten acres of this unspoiled piece of nature will be cleared out, which Chairman Searle says will have ripple environmental impacts. And while the work will affect majority of St George’s Caye, Searle says they have been ignored as the village council, contrary to what is stated in black and white:

John Searle

“First is that we haven’t been consulted and the village council act says they have to consult with us and that hasn’t happened. Other concerns have to do with it’s in the Mangrove Area so that area is under the Mangrove Protection Act. Also in 2009 we were declared a Historic Landmark Site which brings into sharper focus the sensitivity of the area on this island.”

Another issue for major concern is fishing. The planned construction for the area will require dredging; an excavation operation that seasoned fisherman Pedro Alvarez says will bear multiple impacts on the marine population. Having fished in these waters for forty years, it may mean the loss of his livelihood:

Pedro Alvarez, Chairman of National Fishermen Cooperative

“We fish for mostly lobster and scale fish around that area and we find  that it will be detrimental to the fishing industry. Usually they have a spill off and everything that, a lot of scum that comes along with that dredging that automatically will destroy the grounds there because there is silt that set probably sometime like three-four inches on the bottom of the ground where there is no longer a living or feeding ground for fish nor the lobster, so that area becomes dead. They have to move away, likewise with us our space becomes smaller to fish because we got to move away from there. We set traps and you won’t be catching anything, your traps will just be destroyed right there, rot for nothing. So we have to try to look for other else grounds which in grounds are very, very scarce now lotta fisherman and every fisherman have their own little portion of fishing ground. When the dredging commences that will last for months, or probably for years we will see that around there. It goes with the flow of the tides and the current.”

Pedro Alvarez

But for Searle and Alvarez, there is a lack of communication and responsible consultation. They maintain that as stakeholders they do not oppose development, but would like some information since their interests are at stake:

Andrea Polanco

“So at this time you’re saying that you do not want to see development, it is the manner in which it is being done in that you guys weren’t consulted?”

John Searle

“Well, yes, I think if they had come in the beginning and told us about the development and if there are benefits for the village and all that I am sure that we could come to an agreement and we wouldn’t have to go through this. But it’s just the way that it’s going on and the way that they are trying to do it.”

Pedro Alvarez

“Anytime it comes to dredging of that nature we will be hurt. I usually would get together with them, I just heard of this new program that’s gonna develop now. I don’t know if there is a proper consultation with the village council.  As we all know St. George’s Caye do have a village council. Probably I could even sit down with them and some of the other fishermen and see what’s best we can work out there together. I am not here to stop any development but it’s the nature that and the way how they does it sometimes.”

Searle says he made a number of attempts to obtain an official response from the parties responsible but he was told that all matters regarding the proposed development were contained in “internal documents”. Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

We’ll attempt to get the reaction from the Minister of Natural Resources for Tuesday’s newscast.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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4 Responses for “Development of St. George’s Caye causing havoc for residents”

  1. MADDYVANDIJKDEREALISTO says:

    The government is selling Belize by the pound, without any regards for its future. Ignornace is bliss for many, and it will have to take outsiders to come in and see how Belize is being destroyed, legally, with permisson from the GOB.

  2. CEO says:

    No Minister should be able to dole out land in a village or town with out at the very least consult with the people of that village or town. Thsi kind of crap should stop else the people should stop it with force. Poor governance!

    This is a practise that every government of Belize has practised and it is bad!

  3. rod says:

    dig channel 5 dig deep find out which minister just received a big deposit in their bank account kick them out of your town protect what is yours get them out lets find out who is behind this and who ok this another corrupt part of this gov at work nothing but total corruption in the country now they dont even bother to hide it anymore the corruption goes on openly barrow you are a curse to this country get out get out you are a total failure at your job get out thief

  4. Reality check says:

    How much you think the Minister gets on a deal like this??NOT so CLEAN DEAN, election time is near so the rampant husstling will start

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