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#339429 - 05/29/09 09:55 AM Disaster in Crooked Tree!
Marty Offline
by Chris Beaumont for ACCSD

Crooked Tree is a beautiful island village!  This is a village rich with natural and cultural history.  It’s the only inland island of significance in the country and probably this entire hemisphere.  This is one of the reasons that the international community was quick to name it a RAMSAR site.  But despite this RAMSAR designation, this land area seems to illustrate that the “ministah dah Boss” culture is alive and well.  The Minister do not have to adhere to the environmental regulations and after the scare they gave to SATIM, it seems that every other environmental NGO has gotten “Lock Jaw.”  Everyone is afraid to speak!  We all must be reminded that we must speak out when we witness a wrongdoing or else we will continue to be in this turmoil that now exists in our country.  Let us remember a wise saying by the Great Phillip Goldson, “The time to save our country is before we lose it.”


Let me continue by clarifying that I am not against development; I am against senseless development that can be classified as crimes against the environment.  I love Belize and that’s why I am speaking out since APAMO has gotten “Lock Jaw.”  The road across the Crooked Tree lagoon can, and should be, classified as a crime against the environment.  We did the exact thing about twenty-five years ago and we all saw the damage that it caused.  Now we are repeating the same mistake and it seems that we have learned nothing over the years. 


We all can remember a time when Crooked Tree had nice swimming areas with a hard-bottom lagoon ideal for recreation among many other things.  But now these areas have become mud pits.  It used to be fun to swim there but not now!  This is because a road was built across the lagoon and the bridges were not put in place until several years later.  What is amazing is that this is happening again and the people of the village have said nothing publicly.  Many of them benefit from the tourism dollars and they are standing there watching a minister killing the goose that’s laying the golden egg yet jaws remain locked. 


I fully support the road across the lagoon if it is done right.  This can be done where it is a win-win situation for everyone.  If only the minister would follow the environmental compliance plan outlined to the Audubon Society and the Minister by the Department of Environment.  It would cost only a few dollars more to do it properly and we should view this as an investment in protecting our precious natural resources.  But this lack of foresight seems to be our  ministers way of doing things.  Sure, the road project gets done, but at what cost?  A magnificent wetland area will be reduced to an almost lifeless pond.  Funny how history has a way of repeating itself.   



Wil Maheia


Peoples National Party

Res ipsa loquitor, Latin for "the thing speaks for itself," as these attached pictures and Wil Maheia's statement surely do.
And, in addition to the problems Wil identifies in his attached statement, our Minister, "Clear the Land" Castro, has accomplished the following by building this road in a way that Wil says is in direct contravention of the environmental compliance plan for the road:
  • Exposed Crooked Tree and other communities to much greater storm damage by removing the natural storm protection provided by these wetlands;
  • Contaminated the water systems for Crooked Tree and other communities;
  • Destroyed the water system that replenishes the aquifer that provides water to Crooked Tree;
  • Destroyed the habitat of the birds that are the primary reason that tourists go to Crooked Tree - - thus ruining the tourism industry there.
Where WERE the Belize Audubon Society, the Department of the Environment and the Association of Protected Area Management Organizations?  Where were all of US?
Is it OK for our government to refuse to obey our laws?  Is it OK for the Department of the Environment to look the other way because this possibly irreversible damage was done under the direct order of a minister of government?
If it's ok for the current government to refuse to obey the environmental compliance plan for the Crooked Tree road, then why wasn't it OK for former Prime Minister Musa to divert a "few" million dollars from housing to cover the debt of people providing a hospital?  What's the difference?  (How much did it cost to build this road, anyway?)
Is it OK that the Audubon Society seems to have been co-opted by the government (be it PUP or UDP) because BAS gets most of its income from the government for its management of Crooked Tree, Cockscomb and other protected areas?  (As is the case with most of our country's larger NGOs, such as the Southern Environmental Association (formerly Friends of Nature) and Programme for Belize.)
And if the Audubon Society and the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations have NOT been co-opted, why wasn't a lawsuit filed to obtain an injunction against the building of this road when it did not include culverts that may have prevented this environmental disaster and were mandated by the Environmental Compliance Plan for the road? 
These are our biggest and most well-funded environmental organizations.  If we can't rely  on them, who can we rely on?  Surely not the government, as has been amply demonstrated by the Crooked Tree road disaster.
People like Candy Gonzalez struggle alone, without funding, to attempt to require the government and BEL to obey the orders of our Supreme Court.  A tiny little organization like ours has to take on an environmental disaster waiting in the wings with the building of a marina on the seaside of the Placencia Peninsula; a fledging organization like ACCSD faces the almost certain destruction of a natural treasure, Hol Chan, all by itself; one organization, SATIIM, stands alone wile the Sarstoon-Temash is threatened with seismic testing for the "God" of oil, while our government refuses to instead invest heavily in the sustainable power resources that we have in abundance  -- wind, sun, bagasse. 
Indeed, we all stand silently by while toxic fumes from battery acid, arsenic in treated wood, cleaning fluids and and other toxic wastes float out over the air of Belize City from a burning garbage dump, exposing people not just to immediate respiratory problems but to long term terminal illnesses including cancer, leukemia and birth defects in future generations -- not to mention the water holding these toxins after the dump was flooded by NEMO.  Our government assures us that this water did not or will not reach the sea.  Is that true?  And, even if it is, how much of the ground water was contaminated by this toxic waste - water that WILL reach the rivers that provide drinking water to much of the Belize District, even if it does not reach the sea.
Is it ok that DOE will not comply with its own laws regarding protected areas and the cayes?  Is it ok that a well-run and efficient organization is booted out of its management of a protected area that directly affects the culture and birthright of the third largest segment of our population?
If it's not in our own backyard, then it's ok???????
What is wrong with US, as organizations AND as individual people?  Are we afraid?  And if we are afraid, what are we afraid OF?  Afraid of losing our lives?  Probably no one is going to take us out and stand us in front of a firing squad.  So, what are our fears?  Losing our businesses, our social standing, our "contacts?"  I have to think that none of those things are going to be valuable to any of us if we lose our drinking water, our reef, our fish, our lobster and conch, our birds, our jaguars -- and our people to floods and disease -- and importantly, our personal sense of right and wrong, our ethics, our values -- ourselves.
Isn't it time for more than a mostly ignored Lamanai Declaration, part deux?   We have power, but we're losing.  Why? 
Is it because we're all just concerned with the one little part we have and we're afraid that we'll lose that if we expand our horizons?  What happens if GOB takes away management of Cockscomb and Crooked Tree from BAS?  What happens if SEA no longer manages Gladden Spit and Laughing Bird?  Who will?  Who will make the reports and assume the responsibility that is associated with the funding agencies that provide so much support to GOB?  Can GOB afford to lose these organizations and their credibility?  Can Belize afford to lose what little remaining credibility it has left with the international tourism community?
Corny, but true, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  So, what are going to do? And if we're going to do anything, we need to do it FAST. And if we're not going to do anything, then I propose that we all just shut up, take what happens and hope for mercy when it's time for our judgment day.
Mary Toy - PCSD

#339431 - 05/29/09 10:16 AM Re: Disaster in Crooked Tree! [Re: Marty]
elbert Offline
I had to read this twice to find exactly what the problem was and what the article is objecting to. It seems the road bed is acting as an Earth Dam that is killing the natural water shed area.The watershed area is important to the flora and fauna that the village economy depends on. Is this what you guys derive from the article?
The road bed doesn't have bridges and culverts that let the water flow and the ditches on its sides divert the water to another location? Am I reading it correct?

Edited by elbert (05/29/09 10:43 AM)
The Dive Shops Daily Blog

#339434 - 05/29/09 10:29 AM Re: Disaster in Crooked Tree! [Re: elbert]
Marty Offline
thats how i understand it....

#339436 - 05/29/09 10:59 AM Re: Disaster in Crooked Tree! [Re: Marty]
SimonB Offline
Correct. It's been well documented in the news.

#339440 - 05/29/09 11:27 AM Re: Disaster in Crooked Tree! [Re: Marty]
elbert Offline
I gave this copy below an http address/(link) so i could post it.
Really a shame government isn't thinking of the environmental impacts and people more in projects like this., It probably was just a good intention done in an inconsiderate way.
The Dive Shops Daily Blog


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