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Jul 23, 2009

Minister Faber says he will fight for reserve land

Story PictureNews Five broke the story on the hasty survey and approval of more than nine acres of land in the Krooman Lagoon Reserve to the owner of Xtra House, Jack Chawla, in June. Since then, the businessman has begun his development on the city’s only reserve that also serves for drainage. Jose Sanchez was back at Krooman Lagoon today and has this report.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting
This lush mangrove with a three story high canopy and knee deep waters is not located in the depths of the Chiquibul Forest, but just one mile on the Western Highway. The Declaration of the Krooman Reserve was signed by the Minister of Natural Resources under the National Lands Act October twenty-sixth, 2007. It is located in the Collet Division, and Area Rep. Patrick Faber was surprised about the recent sale of over nine acres within the reserve.

Patrick Faber, Area Representative for Collet
“I am saying I did not know. As soon as I found out, which was probably a day before Channel Five’s first story broke on the issue, I immediately took it up with the minister of course and with the prime minister. And I was asked to take the matter to the cabinet on the following Tuesday which was yesterday. And I raised the issue seeking clarification. There were some issues that we still could not resolve. And so we’ve resigned ourselves to make sure that we have a resolution to the whole situation by next Cabinet meeting which is next Tuesday. It seems the process for the sale of this land happened very quickly, I believe within thirteen days or so, it was surveyed, sold, and began to be filled in June, and at a very nice price of seventy thousand dollars. That’s a big piece of land for such a small price.”

Jose Sanchez
“When it comes to the people in your area, they need land also, don’t they? You have an issue of squatting.”

Patrick Faber
“There is a major issue that we have with land. We are on a constant quest to try to find housing lots for people. And in fact though, you say it was done quickly. I believe that is certain. I am not sure Mr. Chawla was given a title but that is neither here nor there. The expediency in which it was processed is a matter that raises eyebrows. There was a request made in the Cabinet, I’m not sure if it was last week for Mr. Chawla to, for him to get help in certain ways to open a potato chips factory, but I can tell people that no part of that discussion in Cabinet entailed him getting any land in the Collet area, certainly, or no other area for that matter. So I would have to say that I absolutely did not know.”

The Chawlas of Xtra House have not wasted time. From June sixteenth when they property was sold, in less than a month, a portion of the lagoon, was filled. And the city’s jungle is pushed back while piles have been driven deep for the potato chip factory. But at what cost? The area is a natural catchment that helps with the city’s drainage.

Dean Samuels, Councillor Responsible for Drainage (July 22, 2009)
“Krooman Lagoon or the Antelope Extension Pond, as it is called, it is very important to the city. It is the area where water flows from the Lake Independence area and it flows across the Western Highway into this lagoon or pond and thus subsequently, it flows to the sea. Since the Port filled the area, I think it has two little channels now that it flows into the sea. So it is very important to the south side of Belize when it comes to drainage.”

Yvette Alonzo Program Coordinator, APAMO (July 20, 2009)
“It is a protected area. It’s a concern because, as the Crooked Tree Lagoon, these lagoons serve as catchments area for flooding. So if we’re doing development in these areas we run the risk of flooding that can affect the communities around these areas. Again it’s something we need to look into”

Land is a scare commodity in Collet; and some residents are squatting. Faber says he won’t let this nine acres slip his constituents if he can.

Patrick Faber
“I will go to Cabinet make no mistake to try to fight for that portion of land that has been filled already, to be handed over to the people of Collett to provide housing lots for them. What cabinet will say, I can’t tell you. I want them to understand that is the position where I stand. That has always been my intention to fight the right balance. If you notice where that portion of land is, it is at the front. Some may well argue, and that is another thing I need to clarify, how much harm if any harm at all will that portion that is now filled to the front by where the Xtra House storage area is, storage house is now, how much will that affect any catchment ability of this area. If not then I believe it should be given to the people of Collet.”

And the fight won’t be over, until it’s over. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Faber says that under the previous administration other individuals have received land titles for sections near or within Krooman Lagoon.

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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