From channel 5 news
For the past three nights, we’ve taken you inside the Chiquibul forest – to show you a place that cameras have never seen before. As we’ve shown you it is a protected area only in name as Guatemalans use it freely, chopping down trees, hunting animals, harvesting xate, littering and farming. It is a forest under formidable pressure – but what can be done? There are no easy answers in this massive 264 thousand acre expanse – but Jules Vasquez tried to come up with some.
Jules Vasquez Reporting,
A garden of Eden where I drank water from the vine, in this case from the plant known as the water vine, or is it a paradise at risk of being lost? As we trudged back the 6 kilometers to our drop off point between bouts of exhaustion I contemplated Chiquibul
across the horizon those bald hills that’s Guatemala, and we watched form what is now a bald hill in Belize, and I wonder will it someday be that what is over there is over here.
To make sure it doesn’t happen, The BDF and the FCD park rangers walk the line right past Xate leaves that fell off some Xateros’ horse – which brings into focus how difficult this really all is – they are Belizean soldiers on Belizean territory – but the terms of engagement are determined by armed Guatemalan outlaws who use this archaeological park as a free range area – forcing the BDF to tiptoe through their own forest – and not just in the adjacency zone as much as 6 kilomteres in.
Lt. Justo Velez,
“Well really these encroachments have been happening and there is no military solution to it. It is more of a civilian and a diplomatic one.”
Rafael Manzanero, FCD
“Normally it would take really a ground verification, people to come and do it. It would seem as though it is automatic that we can just come and do whatever we think we can do or traditionally what we can do. Really there is an aspect where in the context of the adjacency zone, there are certain things that it just requires other institutions to come in and verify.”
“But as a Belizean you can’t help but be filled with a kind of rage because we can’t come here, if I came here I would be arrested the next day because I am a Belizean and this is a national park but these people have come here.
Is this frustrating for you and your team, you all encounter these things and you these crops are going to extracted, they are going to be sold in Guatemala, it is exploiting a Belizean archeological park and you know also that you didn’t find anyone there because they heard us or they left early. Is it frustrating for you all?”
Lt. Justo Velez,
“Well really and truly I would say we follow orders and this is our and we abide by it.”
“Being able to document this, what you can see is only one of the area because this is not like a singular activity, there are multiple other or similar camps like this.”
“Moving south along the border?”
“South of this location.”
“So you have bald, denuded, milpa-ed areas like this all along our borderline.”
“That’s correct yes.”
“How do we fix this or reverse this, I mean look at this, this is a major area of cultivation, the BDF doesn’t have the manpower to uproot and destroy all this corn, all the new shoots of corn, how do we fix it?”
“Well certainly I think one of the key things is certainly for the public to understand the magnitude of the problem.”
And therein lies the intractability of this problem – because its not just this milpa – the problem stretches along a very border punctured by multiple pressure points.
“What it would take like for example right now with those young corns, if you could come in and destroy all of this, people would get the message but that not would not mean that they would not open another swathe either north or south.”
“Is it still salvageable?”
Dr. Colin Young,
“Well I am a pessimist in some cases and I think this problem is not new. It has been ongoing for a very long time and I don’t see the kind of urgency being given to this situation and the funding because this face is incredibly expense to manage. In fact this park is probably the most dangerous park to manage in all of Belize and that requires a tremendous amount of personnel and financial resources and without those two things in place and the political will and diplomatic negotiations, it is very difficult to say to stop.”
A problem with no simple, short term solution and on this day, mine was just getting out – a total of 12 kilometers – 7 miles hiked in a day and I was just grateful to be protected by the capable and professional men of BDF Alpha Company and the FCD park rangers.
All told, our team hike about 12 kilometers thorough the jungle, that’s about 7 miles – in a day...our thanks to the Friends for Conservation and Development for facilitating our visit.
Edited by elbert (12/15/09 01:10 PM)