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Jun 28, 2012

Green Tropics must rehabilitate protected biological corridor

Green Tropics, a Spanish company, became known in earlier this month when its operations were put on hold for dredging at the Labouring Creek Jaguar Corridor Wildlife Sanctuary. The company has now agreed to pay an environmental fine of over one hundred thousand dollars to the Ministry of Environment for damages, but it’s not over yet because other fines are likely to be imposed. News Five’s Jose Sanchez has an update on Green Topics which is investing in a sixteen thousand-acre sugar cane plantation.

 

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Green Tropics intended to build a sugar factory, along with a refinery, cane fields complemented with an energy generation component. But while its Environmental Impact Assessment was being reviewed, the company dug a canal forty to fifty feet wide and close to four miles long through a protected biological corridor.

 

Martin Alegria

Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer, D.O.E.

“That proposal is within the EIA proposal. They have their own justification of how they would want to proceed with its proposed mitigating measures and so on. So yes it is in there, but apparently they may have ‘jumped the gun’ as we say. Part of it, they are claiming is that the rainy season was upon us earlier than most historical data.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“But was it approved?”

 

Martin Alegria

“Yeah it was in the process of; the last steps. And the last steps include the revision by NEAC. There is a violation of the procedural aspects of the EIA; there is also violation of the protected areas legislation that deals with preserving and protecting protected areas; which falls under the forest department’s jurisdiction in this case. And there is also other issues that may arise from such activity. But all in all, what we had done is right away we issue a stop order when we were informed and did a site inspection that yes this was occurring at the time, almost at the end. So we issued a stop order, ask the developers and EIA people to come in and discuss the way forward. At that meeting which we did have, we informed the developer that the company has violated the law.”

 

The company violated two laws, one that governs the Department of Environment and the other is the Forest Department’s National Park System Act.

 

Wilbur Sabido, Chief Forest Officer

Wilbur Sabido

“As soon as the Forest Department learned of the Green Tropics entering into the newly declared Jaguar Corridor Sanctuary, we deployed forest department staff along with the department of the environment and we did a preliminary assessment of the actual situation on the ground. I gather that is the information that the media put out to the public and reported on. After that, we made a decision to have the department of environment along with forest department as the lead to do a more thorough assessment of the impact of the trench that was dug out through the wildlife sanctuary. We are also including other parties that have expertise in wildlife management, the University of Belize through the ERI (the Environmental Research Institute), along with another local partner by the name of Panthera; along with the meteorology department. We’re doing a more thorough assessment of the impacts.”

 

 

The damage assessment will include a review of the species affected by clearing of vegetation, dredging of canal and piling of soil alongside canal. Jaguars as well as howler monkeys traverse through the Laboring Creek area of the Central Belize Corridor.

 

Wilbur Sabido

“Once we have that, then we would be able to do a cost assessment and that cost assessment will then enable the forest department through its national park system act to enact one of its provisions which pertains to legal action against the Green Tropics Limited in this particular case. What we’re doing is exploring our own legal options through the national park system act; however, in order for us to proceed with any legal action, we would need to have much more information than we have currently on hand especially as it pertains to the damage and to the cost to remediate the area to a state where Forest Department and all its partners are comfortable with.”

 

Martin Alegria.

“Knowing the time frame that they claim they have been here for three years; scouting, negotiating, and they are almost at the end stage after three years that they wouldn’t want a situation like this should stop and create another undue delay for another three years. We made it clear to them that addressing the environmental issues; if they are willing to cooperate with us in order to resolve this—issues that we can work on. And hence they had proposed in writing recently to settle out of court; whatever the penalties attached; however the discussions we had between us, we are inclining to settling out of court right away, doing a damage assessment of what perhaps has been environmental damage not only to the flora and fauna, but other issues. And then that same assessment would come up hopefully with recommendations on how to rehabilitate, to cure the damage and the cost implications of those.”

 

Wilbur Sabido

“I can’t really give you a time frame. The only time frame I can give you is that the assessment will take four weeks. We are going to present that information to the Minister who will then consult with the Attorney General and see if there could be the legal action that we are suggesting or if there could be a settlement with the company outside of the court. It is essentially at the end of the day up to the company in terms of how is it that they respond to our claim.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“They have at least already indicated their willingness to pay compensation.”

 

Wilbur Sabido

“They have demonstrated a willingness to pay the fine associated with the infraction coming out of the Environmental Protection Act. They haven’t shown any commitment in terms of making any payments towards damages associated with the National Park System Act.”

 

The Forest Department is leading the Damage Assessment team. Financing for the assessment is coming from Green Tropics. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

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10 Responses for “Green Tropics must rehabilitate protected biological corridor”

  1. beliezean says:

    that’s why no company come to belize…
    the buy land then later get scrow.
    we in belize will never get no ware
    all we have is tax after tax

  2. from the West says:

    While I don’t quite understand how the canal would keep the animals from moving around, what I do understand is that the Government of Belize will never fail to frustrate any foreign investors to the point where they give up and leave. Kudos to the DOE for stifling another forein investment.

  3. Belizean says:

    Man, these environmentalist, they sure need a lot of attention. What an embarrassment for this country to halt such a multi-million dollar company. This surely will impact the attitude of foreign investment in a very negative way. If this company has been here 3 years already and only now they are discovering what they are doing, then I think somebody is terribly lazy. Better help this company forward instead of being a prick in the foot

  4. Lucas says:

    I have bitterly lambasted the Company for high handedly violating that part of our national forest and have clearly exposed my fears that poisonous chemical residues may flow through this channel and thus assesinate the Old River and deprieve the villages along it’s bank of such a blessing. However, I have also said that I believe that environmentalism and development can, should and must go hand in hand. I also said that I am not against Green Tropics and in the spirit of GOOD WILL I make the following proposal:. That GOB does not impose any fine whatsoever this one time only, provided the Company fills back the channel and replant all the vegetation destroyed at it’s own cost. That if the Company still wants to use water from the river and after complying with all requirements, be allowed to run under-ground pipes from the river to their farm but all pipes must have a meter and like all of us, pay for the water used. The farmers from the San Fernando Valley in California irrigate their farms with water from the Colorado River but they pay for every drop of water used. Or, get permission to make an artificial lake and have free water during the rainny season.

  5. FK Me says:

    I hope they dont pack up and leave, we need industries in Belize..

  6. FK Me says:

    I hope they dont pack up and leave, we need industries in Belize..

  7. reatph says:

    are they going to fill it back up with the material that they’ve dug up???????????????????????
    they can lay pipes to do the same job without causing damage.

  8. Tom Page says:

    The company lost patience. They decided on breaking the law. Their actions demonstrate contempt for the environment. Did they get some inside assent from the GOB?

    What is happening with silting at the junction where the ditch meets the Belize River?

  9. Storm says:

    I’m no expert in what happened or what should happen here, but Lucas’s suggestion makes a lot of sense. Development should be facilitated, as long as it does not do damage that will do harm far into the future. We need capital to create good jobs, but we also need to be sure we leave the Jewel to our children in better condition than we received it from our parents.

  10. PM says:

    the environmental laws applies to everybody regardless if you are investing millions. Ignorance is not excuse. Foreigners cant just come to Belize and do what they feel like just because they are investing money. they cannot destroy our environment. investment is good but when you consider environmental protection your investment will last.

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