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Jun 25, 2020

Environmental Concerns Over Dredging Near Mile Five on George Price Highway

A resident of mile five on the George Price Highway came to our studios today with an environmental concern. Dredging near his house, he says, has turned the once clear waters to a brownish colour and waste has accumulated more than two feet high. There is also concern that marine life is being affected. News Five’s Duane Moody has the following report. 

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

There is a complaint that a dredging activity in March, between miles five and six on the George Price Highway, has dumped a large amount of detritus along the shoreline between the causeways of Kukumba Beach and the Stakebank Enterprise Limited. Derek Chong has been living at mile five and a half since 2011.  While visiting Canada in early March, he was informed of the situation. He returned to find that the once pristine waters in front of his property had turned into dark waves and that the waste had accumulated thigh deep and a couple yards out.

 

Derek Chong

Derek Chong, Property Owner

“It’s deep, mid-thigh, two and a half feet and you cannot walk there; you got to crawl along. It’s that thick and it goes up quite a way. Even now, you don’t see it, but it is in the water.”

 

Duane Moody

“So you can’t swim?”

 

Derek Chong

“How can I? It is dirty.”

 

Deirdre Crevier

Deirdre Crevier, Resident

“We notice noise going on, a lot of noise to the right of me, couple of properties over.  The sound of the dredger—we didn’t know what it was—and we saw a huge hose being pulled out over the causeway and I looked at my husband and I said, “What’s going on? What is that?” And then we started seeing the water colour from turquoise blue and beautiful sand and I started saying what is that black cloud coming in and it just kept growing and coming and coming and it was just pure black. Then it started washing up against the shoreline. If you look at that wave right there rolling in, you will see that. We don’t call these white caps, we call these black caps. My husband and I sit here and we look at our black caps. It is solid rolling black matter—no oxygen, no air, no light, nothing can get through that. It is just a cesspool of black muck.”

 

According to Deirdre Crevier, she and her husband migrated to Belize and have been living there since January. They are concerned about the impact that it is having to the marine life in the area.

 

Deirdre Crevier

“We used to walk in the morning from Kukumba over there enjoying our walk on beautiful clear, ridged sand bottoms with hermit crabs and fish and stingrays and the sea grasses. They all came in and laid their eggs here because it is really actually a protected area. And the birds, oh my. Pelicans and diving for their fish and fish jumping right in front of us. I saw dolphins. None of it, it is all gone; it’s all gone. No more birds, no more bird life, no anything. There is no smell to it, but she said that because it is so black and so dense that no light or oxygen will get through the ocean so everything in its way is going to die.”

 

Derek Chong

“I am just worried about the destruction on the environment and the fishery and the bird and whatnot and this is why we felt we had no choice but to talk to you guys and see what could be done about it.  We used to have patches of sea grass where the fish comes and lay eggs. We had all kind of fish including stingrays, jacks; you name it.  And now, I am wondering if the sea grass is still alive. I think they’re gone.”

 

That concern led them to contact several environmental organizations and government departments in an effort to see what could be done. A response came in the form of an email on March twenty-third from the Mining Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources. In that email Inspector of Mines, Michelle Alvarez says that, “the Mining Unit has NOT issued any permit for dredging at that location NOR have we been aware of this.”

 

Deirdre Crevier, Resident

“I looked up all the different departments I could possibly think up in Belize. I touched environment first.  I wasn’t sure mining was in control of granting the dredging permits, but I also contacted OCEANA, I contacted environment, I contacted Audubon. I contacted like six or seven departments that I thought would be interested in this matter. And apparently, no one got back to me, even environment didn’t get back to me; they just transferred my email to the mining.  And the head person in charge of the mining got back to me and started asking me questions and so on and she issued immediately that there was no dredging permit allowed in the five point five mile area.”

 

News Five was able to contact Alvarez, who says that the unit is in the process of addressing all claims since there has been a backlog triggered by the COVID-19 situation.

 

Derek Chong

“I talked to apparently the manager of the project, name is Mister Wade—I don’t know his first name—and he said, “Oh, no problem. We will get a tractor out there and plow and clean it up for you. And then after that the shutdown came due to the COVID-19 and I didn’t get back in touch with him until about three weeks ago. I have been trying to contact with him until about three weeks ago. He say he has to talk to his boss and see what they are going to do about it. I said, “Yeah, please. Let me know what the plans are and give me a timeframe when you are going to do it. And we haven’t heard from him since.”

 

Deirdre Crevier

“Somebody has to be accountable for this; somebody. We are not Belizean and we are devastated over this. You, as Belizeans, should be even more mortified over this. This is your oceans, this is your land.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


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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