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Jul 28, 2009

Cabinet takes back 9.3 of Belize City lagoon

Story PictureThe Krooman Lagoon; it made the news since July fifteenth because it is a reserve that provides drainage for the old capital and it had been parceled off, leased and paid for by a well-connected businessman. Well today, the news coming out of Cabinet is that government has backed off from the sale and the nine point three acres of the reserve to Jitendra Chawla. When a News Five team observed trucks carrying fill into an area about a mile on the Western Highway, they went to investigate and found men cutting down trees in the mangrove and spreading clay. As the cameraman took footage, the site supervisor threatened to shoot the crew. Why was it so important that the development was not disclosed? Well, it’s because the development was in a reserve and a catchment basin for water on the south side of the city. And since News Five broke the story, the city council, the Association of Protected Areas Management Organization and residents of Collet have discussed the relevance of keeping the area untouched. At last Friday’s House Meeting, the lagoon was the subject of heated exchanges between current and former ministers of natural resources. And as we said at the top of the story, Chawla, the man who paid for and has started a potato chip factory, will not get titles for the land. The sale occurred with indecent haste without the consultation of the area representative for Collet, Patrick Faber who appears to have won over the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources, Gaspar Vega. Today Faber has the last word on Krooman Lagoon and he says the lagoon is back in the hands of his constituents.

Patrick Faber, Minister/ Area rep. For Collet
“Indeed the Krooman Lagoon plays an integral part in the whole catchment and drainage of the area. We looked at a study presented by the Ministry of Works, the Halcrow Study, that was done several years ago as a part of the South Side Poverty Alleviation Program. Indeed the entire lagoon is crucial to this project and to drainage of the area. So we would conclude then that this is a matter of ignorance this was given to Mr. Jack Charles. So to that end, we have said that the title will not be issued. So there is no fear of that. It is true that Mr. Charles has put in a lot of work there and that indeed he engaged with the Ministry of Natural Resources to try to purchase the land. And that will be dealt with. The Ministry of Natural Resources will now meet with Mr. Charles and they will work out what compensation can be made. However, I need to say where Mr. Charles acted outside of the regulations, as I know that he has started construction without proper plans and so and I’m not sure what the compensation will be like in that area. The ministry and the pertinent officials will meet with Mr. Charles to figure out the solution. What Cabinet has agreed to as well is that the Krooman Lagoon area is to be for the use of the people of Collet, if any at all. That means that the portion of land that Mr. Charles has now filled and any other area around the lagoon and including the lagoon is to be used for the people of Collet. It does not necessarily mean there will be house lots. We are waiting for further advice from the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Natural Resources to tell us what can be done with that area. There are a few suggestions being tossed about but I can assure everybody that whatever is done is going to be something that will be environmentally safe; and something that the people of Collet can be proud of. It may include house lots. We don’t know. We just need to wait and see we get the proper advice and then we’re able to make a proper decision. It will be for the use and enjoyment of the people of Collet and for the larger nation of Belize.”

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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