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Jun 11, 2014

Town councils gear up for the thirty million-dollar Belize Municipal Development Project

The thirty million dollar Belize Municipal Development Project was the focus of a workshop in Belmopan today. The BMDP was rolled out a year ago, and so far there have been continuous discussions; today municipal authorities from all over the country were invited to discuss the outcome of the Municipal Development Planning Initiative, which is an important component of the BMDP. Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Improving the quality of life for present and future generations…that’s the focus of  the Belize Municipal Development Project—a project that is funded by the Government of Belize through a thirty million dollar loan from the World Bank. Today, the third national workshop of the municipal development planning initiative was held at the George Price Center in Belmopan. The project started a year ago; in May 2013, and since then, a local planning working group has been meeting with the various town councils to outline future development initiatives for more effective urban management.

 

Keisha Rodriguez

Keisha Rodriguez, Urban Planning Officer

“ITUD worked with them in five modules. The first one being assessment of their existing conditions. The assessment of what exist in town, looking at maps, doing some geographic information systems work; looking at data from Statistical Institute, etc. The second module, they looked at their vision, the development scenarios. For example what are their population estimates for 2030; what vacant land is available, etc. and of course what their vision is for their municipality for 2030. The third module, we looked at land use proposals. The towns were divided into different areas for example the downtown area; the urbanize area, which is the area that most people live. And then the urbanizing areas are those that are developing; that have poor infrastructure for example. And then you have the vacant areas within the municipal boundaries and there are different strategies for development within those areas.”

 

Since January 2014, each participating town has been engaged in disseminating aspects of its draft municipal plans to respective communities. The project focuses primarily on infrastructural development within seven municipalities in Belize: Belmopan, Benque Viejo del Carmen, San Ignacio/Santa Elena, Corozal Town, Dangriga, Orange Walk Town and Punta Gorda. For Orange Walk, a perennial issue is streets, which falls within the scope of the project.

 

Kevin Bernard, Mayor, Orange Walk Town

Kevin Bernard

“Our plan will focus a lot on infrastructural work. Talking about that plan, in our long term goals, we are looking at upgrading a hundred and thirteen major streets in our town. Part of that plan includes drainage, includes flood mitigation areas that we want to look at. But on the short term, we have already put together a street infrastructure project proposal, we are looking over the document—we got a consultant to work on that for us—and we want to seek funding. We will be going out to the public, going out to the residents, talk to them about the proposal. And that five million dollar proposal will be split into two areas where we want to invest four million in upgrading streets and the other million will be going in rehabilitating others that are low-lying areas.”

 

As it is, there is no industry in Dangriga and Mayor Gilbert Swazo, says that cultural tourism and agriculture is needed in his southern municipality.

 

Gilbert Swaso

Gilbert Swaso, Mayor, Dangriga Town

“The best way forward for Dangriga in our humble opinion is agriculture because as you know tourism is fragile; however, we have started identifying those properties that we believe will certainly form the basis for our agriculture product. We have in the Stann Creek area proper and on the peripheral of Dangriga those five acre plots, ten acre plots which were part and parcel of the Carib reserve. A lot of those properties as we speak at this time are unoccupied and abandoned. So the council is at this time looking at partnering or also confirming who in fact owns those properties with a view that we can partner with the community and other stakeholders with a view to cultivate those properties. I the meantime, we have readily available beach front properties, which we believe are for public purposes. And those public purpose properties we believe now can be properly managed by the council with a view to establish the kind of tourism industry which will be beneficial for the people of Dangriga.”

 

The municipal development plans are projected to the year 2030. Duane Moody for News Five.

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