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Sep 13, 2006

“Flippin Minister” weighs in against Ara Macao

Story PictureThe tourism project at the top of the Placencia Peninsula known as Ara Macao is the most recent in a string of controversial proposals that have pitted the desire for economic development against the need to protect Belize’s environment. What makes the Ara Macao dispute different is that in addition to a vocal citizens group opposing the large scale hotel/condo/casino/marina project; it also appears that the government itself is divided in its attitude. Prime Minister Said Musa has publically offered his strong endorsement, while Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, John Briceño, has urged a more cautious approach, placing his trust in the legal mechanisms of his ministry and the technical evaluation of unbiased experts. With a decision on Ara Macao expected at any time, a man with no shortage of experience is weighing in with some strong opinions of his own. Melvin Hulse, former Minister of Works and Stann Creek West representative during the last U.D.P. term of office, believes that, as presently configured, Ara Macao is a disaster waiting to happen. One of the major question marks he cites is the issue of water.

Melvin Hulse, Former Minister of Works
?So they?re talking, one that they will have sufficient water to do it, without having checked the aquifer there. They also tested the water and checked the volume of water in the rain weather. When they are specific models and the engineers know both by English and American standards, that whenever you talking about using water and volume of water you have to do modules. You also have to test it at maximum capacity for x number of days and weeks to check. You also need to test the water board in dry weather, and they did it only in rainy weather. So you have no idea if they exhaust the water supply. Calculating their numbers and when they are operating at full speed they will be using something like fifty-eight million gallons of water. That translates into about six hundred and seventy-one gallons a minute need to be pumped. Now before you go and say my system will be dependant on getting water from an existing system, which is Seine Bight, you first have to make sure you bring in qualified people to test how it will replenish. Because water is not inexhaustible, there is none of us here including the ministry, who is aware of the volume available in that aquifer.?

Perhaps even more important, according to Hulse, is the excavation of a huge marina on the windward side of the coast, with two entrances protected by lengthy breakwaters. He says the design endangers the physical integrity of the peninsula in a hurricane and impedes the build-up of sand on the valuable beaches to the south.

Melvin Hulse
?It has been proven already, and we have all the numbers here. You create a channel you are creating another area where the tidal waves have more access into the land, because there is a continuation of almost fifteen hundred feet into the land. So right away you have diminished the distance between Placencia Lagoon and the sea by fifty percent to start with. Even a category one, and the numbers I do have, with a sustained category one enough wave action will wash away everything–the road and whatever development is done there, because you know that two channels that are coming in now. When a million years of developed was done and compacting of the sand, moving and hardening and creating semi-barriers even though it might be under the sea, you now bring that way inside, they are going to wash away everything. Two things can happen they will wash away everything maybe even to the point of cutting that part there when you reach the peninsula or taking all this contamination and putting in the Placencia Lagoon. Two, they have done no analysis of what value of sand, how is it going to move, rough calculations show me about two thousand truck loads. He has made no provision to move the sand. All these nice things to say that we are going to truck it … truck it how and to where? You are going to drop it in the wetlands.?

Stewart Krohn, Reporting
?They said that they would put it on the beach on the next side.?

Melvin Hulse
?It doesn?t work like that. The fact is that both in the gulf, in the eastern borders of the United States and the Caribbean they have found out that putting these kinds of channels have caused immense damage every time there is a hurricane. New Orleans learnt that with both channels and with the wetlands.?

But while Hulse appears to be an impassioned advocate for the environment, might his views be coloured by the fact that he’s once again running for office? And if he wins would it be surprising if he had a sudden change of heart?

Melvin Hulse
?Once I put myself back into the political arena it is impossible for me to pretend that my opinion and how I feel about something in the South will not be viewed with a degree of?boy that is politics you the create. Most people that have known me all my life in the South know that, one I don?t care about flippin politics when it comes to work and I love the South too passionately for that. You play politics with petty things as to who will take credit for what, that?s all nice and fine. But at the end of the day you do not?that is why I absolutely tremendously proud of both the Ministry and D.O.E. because it is no joke for the pressure they are under. It was created for this purpose. You know why the Department of Environment was created? To stop all of we who in the past use to do whatever we want. The fact is the Ministry of Natural Resources and the D.O.E., despite of all the pressure, despite of them bringing all the signatures and despite having the Prime Minister going on the radio, which he should not have done because it was disrespectful to the Minister of Natural Resources. That was wrong and slightly irresponsible and he shouldn?t have done that, but the D.O.E. have stood up well.?

Information from the Department of Environment indicates that after reams of submissions from both the developers and their opponents, the members of the NEAC have made their decision, which should be made public shortly.


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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