The Belize Barrier Reef’s status as a World Heritage Site continues to be in peril tonight as developers are forging ahead with plans for the construction of a resort on an island within the site. It is bad news for the environmental community and they are not holding back. The Yum Balisi project is expected to produce eight thousand gallons of waste water a day and utilize incineration of materials which would also produce harmful dioxins in the environment and can damage the fragile eco-systems. In 2009, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) sent representatives to evaluate the Pelican range which is in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, a part of the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Site. The Department of Environment is a part of the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) which will closely evaluate the proposed development of the Yum Balisi Resort. The NEAC meeting takes place on Wednesday in the Capital, but why is the government considering the proposals when it has already indicated it would not consider development in the fragile site? News Five spoke to Melanie McField of Healthy Reef Initiatives who is outraged that the EIA will be tabled Wednesday.
Dr. Melanie McField, Director, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People
“We have an E.I.A. that has been lodged with the department of the environment and the NEAC will be meeting tomorrow to discuss a proposed develop called Yum Balisi on the island called Fisherman’s Caye along the Pelican Range.”
“That is the same range that was being developed and caused all the controversy regarding Belize’s status as a natural World Heritage Site right?
Dr. Melanie McField
“Right it all really came to the highlight, forefront at the end of 2007, early 2008 when we took Channel Five down to the island and I think did a nice story showing the damages above water and underwater inside this part of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve that is also one of the World heritage Sites. And the thing that is unusual with these cayes, I mean from the air, they look like any other mangrove caye, but when you are underwater, they have these unparalleled biodiversity on the mangrove roots. So instead of seeing the wood, the brown mangrove root that you normally see which is good and prove shelter for fish, you also have this painted tapestry of echinoderms and sponges of every color and tunicates that are just these tiny little delicate creatures and they all filter water. And the thing is the water surrounding these islands are very deep. It’s not like the islands in the north that are kinda on this shallow carbonate platform that the island’s build up on top of that. There is nothing below these islands except mangrove detritus and then the little bit of coral that’s built up around the rim. So what happens when you cut the mangroves on the island, is all that detritus which is just the leaves and branches that have decade and broken down, you’ve stopped the input of that leaf litter because there is no more trees there and it begins to subside. And that’s what’s happened on the island in the last four years; the dredging and filling that they did, the island has continued to subside. So it is heading back toward its natural state. There was some mangrove replanting that was done along the fringes and the trees and mangroves, the things, will come back to its natural state, but now there is this proposal to put a development on the middle of it and we’re really shocked by that.”
Only seventeen percent of the country’s mangroves and forests are protected. And it is these same areas, including islands in the Pelican range that are under threat by development.