Portofino Resort- Now with a new BEACH BAR!!
Topic Options
#417539 - 10/01/11 02:55 PM Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye?
Marty Online   happy
Re: Proposed Development by Ministry of Natural Resources

Dear Residents of St. George’s Caye,

There is a disturbing issue developing on St. George’s Caye and I am writing to inform you as well as ask for your input and support.

From what I can gather, the GOB through the Physical Planning Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources has planned a development for the mangrove area in the back of St. George’s Caye. The proposed development consists of 31 lots and a marina.

I first heard of it earlier this month and immediately went to see Minister Manuel Heredia, our area representative. He told me he was unaware of the plans and that he would support the St. George’s Caye Village council and bring up the issue in Cabinet to find out more information. He also suggested that I write the Prime Minister to make him aware of the situation, which I did on Sept. 7th,2011.

As you all know, the Council worked very hard to get “Village“ status so we could have the legal backing of the Village Council Act and all duties, responsibilities, and privileges it affords. Section 47(c) of the Act clearly states that “before dealing with any lands in the village, the Ministry responsible for lands SHALL (emphasis mine) consult the council and take its views into account …”.

So far the council has not been consulted and all efforts to try to get information or a copy of the plan have been fruitless. In fact, when I requested a copy of the survey plan for the proposed development, I was told that it was an “internal document” and permission of the lands commissioner was necessary for them to release a copy to the council. Furthermore, as the Council waited for the Sept. Celebrations and the State Funeral for Rt. Hon. George Price to pass , expecting shortly thereafter a response from P.M. and Minister Heredia ; GOB sent out the surveyors on Friday Sept. 23rd and the survey is now almost complete!

I have been getting calls from many of you wanting to know what’s going on and I have to confess, I don’t know much more than you.

What I can tell you is that we are working on the situation and seeking legal advice on how to proceed.

The Council’s position is as follows.

1) We need to be consulted as per the Village Council Act section 47(c), and know what is planned for St. George’s Caye BEFORE it becomes a done deal.

2) Without knowing the details of the development, we are opposed to it based on the following facts, including but not limited to:

i) the area is mangrove swamp, protected under the Mangrove Protection Act, and is not suitable for development.

ii) It had been suggested by residents that the area be annexed as part of the existing Mangrove Reserve.

iii) If the area is developed, it will entail extensive dredging which will destroy the mangrove ecosystem and will also cause severe siltation and destruction of the sea grass beds around the caye. This will adversely affect the fishing and lobster and conch fishery in the surrounding areas for both recreational and commercial fishermen.

3) If the development is allowed to proceed, with or without the consent of the Village Council, then it must be done in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act. This requires an Environmental Impact Assessment which needs to address environmental and cultural impacts.

This is especially important since St. George’s Caye was declared an Historical Landmark Site in August, 2009.

4) If the development is allowed to proceed, with or without the consent of the Village Council, then the Village Council needs to be granted some land for future infrastructure purposes such as: electric, water, and telephone utilities; community center, hurricane shelter, police station, health center, school, waste control, sewage treatment and public space for recreational use. It makes no sense to give out all the land on the caye without making provision for these future needs. If that happens, when the need arises, the Village Council will then have to purchase land at high cost to facilitate these developments. This makes absolutely no sens ! We can avoid all that by making provision for these future developments now.

5) If the development is allowed to proceed, with or without the consent of the Village Council, then residents of St. George’s Caye who do not already own land should be given first choice on any available lots. There are many families who have been on St. George’s Caye for many years.

In the past it may have been one family with say five children. Now all those children have grown and have families of their own. Now you have a situation where five families have to share one property. I believe that these people should have first choice on the available lots and the Village Council through the Lots Committee should have input in recommending lot allocation.

6) If the development is allowed to proceed, with or without the consent of the Village council, then lots should not be given to people whose only interest in getting a lot on St. George’s Caye is to eventually sell it for huge profit. We have seen this type of development before!

In the meantime, you can assist by emailing and voicing your concerns to the following people:

• The Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow (secretarypm@opm.gov.bz);

• Hon. Gaspar Vega, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment (minister@mnrei.gov.bz);

• Hon. Gabriel Martinez, Minister of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development (secretary@labour.gov.bz).

• Hon. Manuel Heredia , Area Representative and Minister of Tourism, (betty@travelbelize.org).

Please be sure to copy us at stgeorgescayebelize@gmail.com with any correspondence you may send.

Also, if you have more information than we do, or you have some suggestions on how you think your Council should proceed, then PLEASE call me at 610-0840, or email and give us your input.

Sincerely,

John W. Searle
Chairman
St. George’s Caye Village Council

29 September 2011

Top
#417722 - 10/04/11 01:45 PM Re: Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye? [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Another Battle Of St. George's Caye

For decades, St George's Caye has been a playground for Belizean high society. The island, which has been declared a national historical landmark, is dotted with vacation homes boasting rich colonial architecture that harkens back to its past as the first capital of the settlement.

But there's a storm brewing on the island that's about to threaten the essence of that past, and the future of this community's estimated 200 residents, that only just last year achieved village status.

Jim McFadzean braved the wet weather to go out to the village that's getting ready to do battle all over again - even if it means challenging the government that gave them village status:..

Hon. Gabriel Martinez
"The champagne corks can be unleashed and the drums roll as St. George's Caye makes its formal entry into village status."

Jim McFadzean Reporting
That announcement was welcome news for the island's residents, eager to have a say in plotting their own future. A future they say has at its core the preservation of the island's rich heritage and teeming habitats for wildlife.

But now a major plan by monied developers to cut down an estimated 10 acres of mangrove on the northwest side of the island for a multi-million dollar housing project is raising the ire of villagers.

Why? Because according to Village Council Chairman, John Searle, the area in question is covered by the mangrove act and is soon to be declared a mangrove reserve.

John Searle Jr. Village Council Chairman
"The big problem happening especially with the fishermen that live on the island is that a development of this nature is going to entail a lot of dredging which leads to a lot of siltation and the siltation is going to affect the sea grass beds which in turn affects all the fishing especially the lobster fishing."

Pedro Alvarez, Chairman - National Coop.
"I've been fishing in that area like 35-40 years and dredging have been done already and we see the detriment of it in the area that we immediate fish. We mostly fish for lobster and scale fish around that area and after we found out that the dredging took place - there is a lot of silt that fell off and we found out that the lobster has to move from the ground because the ground becomes filthy with a scum on the bottom and there no longer a feeding ground for lobster or fish to survive on, so automatically they have to move away and migrate from there. These are the areas that we fish directly."

John Searle Jr. Village Council Chairman
"The information that we gather is that it's on permission from the Lands Department, Government of Belize Natural Resources and also the information we gather that its 31 lots including a marina inside this mangrove area."

Jim McFadzean
"When did you found out about this development or this plan development?"

John Searle Jr. Village Council Chairman
"Well there were rumors about it around August 28 when they had the opening of the September celebrations out here and by September 5, I had residents calling me and asking me questions about this proposed development and I immediately went to see our Area Representative Hon. Manuel Heredia."

Jim McFadzean
"And what was his response? Did he know it was going on on St. George's Caye?"

John Searle Jr. Village Council Chairman
"No, he indicated to me that he was unaware of any plans for any kind of sub-division on St. George's Caye and that he would take it up in Cabinet and try to find out information for us."

Jim McFadzean
"Why is it that the village council is not aware of such a major plan that will involve the uprooting of mangroves which is primarily a great protection in the event of hurricanes - which is a threat to islands such as this one?"

John Searle Jr. Village Council Chairman
"That's a very good question there Jim because according to the village council act section 47-C - it says that the ministry responsible for lands shall consult the village council prior to any dealings with lands in the village and so far we have not had any consultation. All efforts to try to find out any information are proving fruitless."

But Searle is getting a hard lesson in village council affairs. In the middle of ferrying the media for a firsthand look at the government sanctioned surveying, he received a call from the CEO of the lands department who gave him a stern reminder as to who has the last say in any and all land dealings in Belize.

Jim McFadzean
"Have you had any communication with anyone from the Ministry of Lands?"

John Searle Jr. Village Council Chairman
"Yes I've made a number of phone calls to people in the Ministry of Lands and one of the responses that I got was that it was an internal document and that they needed permission to release the document to the village council."

Jim McFadzean
"The country of Belize is small, even so is the island of St. George's Caye. You are telling me that as of now you have no idea who is in charge of this development - the plan as is right now?"

John Searle Jr. Village Council Chairman
"That's exactly right Jim, we have zero information on who is behind this development. The only thing we know is that the surveyors are working under the permission the Government of Belize Natural Resources."

Jim McFadzean
"as it stands now, indeed, it seems like the government of Belize has given its blessings, at least the ministry of lands to this project. An estimated 10 acres that will be divided up into 31 lots…..reporting from St. George's Caye, for seven news I'm Jim Mcfadzean.

Searle says the development plan he has seen includes the construction of a Marina that will require the dredging of a channel that's likely to cut across the island.

Late this afternoon, 7news spoke with Beverly Castillo, CEO in the Ministry of Natural Resources who confirmed that the survey is being conducted to create a subdivision of approximately 31 lots, to be distributed individually.

Castillo says the National Lands Act gives the Minister of Natural Resources the power to do just that. She says she is not aware of any permit issued to construct a Marina, and neither is she aware of any law that requires the Minister consult with Village Council officials, except as it relates to recommendations sought during distribution of lots.

Castillo says she has offered to entertain any grievances by the Village Council and to investigate whether her department committed any violations in the process.

Channel 7


Top
#417724 - 10/04/11 01:48 PM Re: Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye? [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Development of St. George’s Caye causing havoc for residents

A multi-million dollar project slated for Saint George’s Caye, on the north-western part of the island started two weeks ago. It is already sparking controversy because of the impact on the fragile ecosystem in the area. The residents of the historic caye have more questions than answers to the proposed development. Chairman John Searle called on the media to show what is taking place on a plot of Mangrove Reserve, and most importantly, of an entire area declared as a historic landmark site. Searle says while the village council wasn’t made privy to the plans at hand, he has done a bit of digging on his own. News Five’s Andrea Polanco went out to the caye today for a wet walk in the wild.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

From the outside these mangroves appear untouched, but at a closer look, you can see surveyors with chain-saw hacking away at the natural habitat on the north-west of St. George’s Caye. While this is just preliminary work to prepare the area for sub-division and construction, in a matter of weeks the damage to the pristine flora of this unique little island might be just another untold story. But for John Searle, Chairman of the St George’s Caye, the details of this proposed development for the area remain a mystery to the village council:

John Searle

John Searle, Chairman, St. George’s Caye

“We know very little on that development, all efforts of trying to get information either from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Lands Department have proven fruitless. The only information we know is little snippets of gossip sort of from residents but it’s suppose to be thirty one lots with a marina in the middle of it.”

Andrea Polanco

“Okay. From what we’re seeing work already started in that area. Can you speak to us on what you saw when you went out there?”

John Searle

“Yes. The surveyors have now been out here almost two weeks and they’ve been cutting boundary lines in the mangroves and cutting all the cut lines for all the parcels of land.”

About seven to ten acres of this unspoiled piece of nature will be cleared out, which Chairman Searle says will have ripple environmental impacts. And while the work will affect majority of St George’s Caye, Searle says they have been ignored as the village council, contrary to what is stated in black and white:

John Searle

“First is that we haven’t been consulted and the village council act says they have to consult with us and that hasn’t happened. Other concerns have to do with it’s in the Mangrove Area so that area is under the Mangrove Protection Act. Also in 2009 we were declared a Historic Landmark Site which brings into sharper focus the sensitivity of the area on this island.”

Another issue for major concern is fishing. The planned construction for the area will require dredging; an excavation operation that seasoned fisherman Pedro Alvarez says will bear multiple impacts on the marine population. Having fished in these waters for forty years, it may mean the loss of his livelihood:

Pedro Alvarez, Chairman of National Fishermen Cooperative

“We fish for mostly lobster and scale fish around that area and we find that it will be detrimental to the fishing industry. Usually they have a spill off and everything that, a lot of scum that comes along with that dredging that automatically will destroy the grounds there because there is silt that set probably sometime like three-four inches on the bottom of the ground where there is no longer a living or feeding ground for fish nor the lobster, so that area becomes dead. They have to move away, likewise with us our space becomes smaller to fish because we got to move away from there. We set traps and you won’t be catching anything, your traps will just be destroyed right there, rot for nothing. So we have to try to look for other else grounds which in grounds are very, very scarce now lotta fisherman and every fisherman have their own little portion of fishing ground. When the dredging commences that will last for months, or probably for years we will see that around there. It goes with the flow of the tides and the current.”

Pedro Alvarez

But for Searle and Alvarez, there is a lack of communication and responsible consultation. They maintain that as stakeholders they do not oppose development, but would like some information since their interests are at stake:

Andrea Polanco

“So at this time you’re saying that you do not want to see development, it is the manner in which it is being done in that you guys weren’t consulted?”

John Searle

“Well, yes, I think if they had come in the beginning and told us about the development and if there are benefits for the village and all that I am sure that we could come to an agreement and we wouldn’t have to go through this. But it’s just the way that it’s going on and the way that they are trying to do it.”

Pedro Alvarez

“Anytime it comes to dredging of that nature we will be hurt. I usually would get together with them, I just heard of this new program that’s gonna develop now. I don’t know if there is a proper consultation with the village council. As we all know St. George’s Caye do have a village council. Probably I could even sit down with them and some of the other fishermen and see what’s best we can work out there together. I am not here to stop any development but it’s the nature that and the way how they does it sometimes.”

Searle says he made a number of attempts to obtain an official response from the parties responsible but he was told that all matters regarding the proposed development were contained in “internal documents”. Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

We’ll attempt to get the reaction from the Minister of Natural Resources for Tuesday’s newscast.

Channel 5


Top
#417728 - 10/04/11 01:54 PM Re: Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye? [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
RESIDENTS OF ST. GEORGE’S CAYE LOOK FOR ANSWERS OVER PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT

Residents of St. George’s caye are concerned over a proposed development on their island.

Marion Ali reporting...
“It forms a very colourful part of Belizean history, and since the controversial Battle of Saint George’s Caye back in 1798, the island’s landscape has practically remained unchanged. But now it is making the news because its Village Council has raised concerns over what it believes is potential development in the immediate future for the island. According to Chairman of the Saint George’s Caye Village Council, John Searle, Jr., the Ministry of Natural Resources has given the go ahead for surveys to be conducted on portions of the caye and that it was done without consulting with them.

John Searle, Jr., Chairman, St. George’s Caye Village Council
“We’ve been declared a village since 2010 and as the village council acts states in 47C that the ministry responsible for lands shall consult with the village council prior to any dealings with lands within the village and so far all efforts that we have done to try to get any information regarding this development have proven fruitless.”

Marion Ali - Reporter
I know that you were on the phone just this morning with the CEO form the Ministry Miss Beverly Castillo, what came out of that conversation?

John Searle, Jr. - Chairman , St. George’s Caye Village Council
“Miss Castillo said she would have to consult with the Minister regarding the plans that were done for this development.”

Amidst a heavy downpour this morning, Searle took the media out to see first-hand. The men who were cutting down the trees were hired, they said, by the Ministry, to survey the portion of land. They were not willing to talk – in fact the one in charge was unwelcoming to us. Searle says that by his own estimation, between seven and ten acres of land is about to be developed on Saint George’s Caye. It is a problem, he said, that dates way back.

John Searle, Jr. - Chairman, St. George’s Caye Village Council
“This isn’t a thing about politics, red and blue, it happens under both administrations. The only difference is previously we were considered a community council now we are a village council and we have the backing of the Village council Act so we just wanted to go through the proper procedure.”

But while consultation to conduct surveys is one thing, development is quite another, and that is what fisher folks from the island are concerned about. Pedro Alvarez, says he has been fishing in the area for over three decades, so he knows what dredging will do.

Pedro Alvarez, Chairman, National Fishermen Coop.
“Dredging has been done already and we see the detriment of it in the area that we immediate fish. We mostly fish for lobster and scale fish around that area and after we found out that the dredging took place there is a lot of silt that fell off. There is no longer a feeding ground for lobster or for fish to survive on so automatically they have to migrate from there and these are the area s we fish directly."

Marion Ali - Reporter
Is it that the residents are against development or they just asking you consult with us before you go ahead with the development.”’

John Searle Jr. - Chairman, St. George's Caye
“Well the areas where they’re proposing this development we were lobbing to have it annex as part of our mangrove reserve. But if they really want to push the development through they have all the rights to do so the minister is the ministers of land and its crown land but the villagers and all the residents we want to know what is going on.”

Love News contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources this evening to get the Ministry’s perspective on the issue but we were told the CEO was in a meeting.

LOVEFM

Top
#417828 - 10/05/11 02:41 PM Re: Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye? [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Ministry clarifies St. George’s Caye development

On Monday night we headed to Saint George’s Caye where up to ten acres of land is said to be under development. Chairman of the St. George’s Caye village council, John Searle, took the media out to the island for a look at the work being done in what is considered to be a part of the “Mangrove Protected Areas”. Today News Five spoke with CEO in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Beverly Castillo, who said that the survey being done is for the subdivision of thirty-one lots. Castillo said that the while the lots are intended for local distribution, there has been no processing of applications and that she doesn’t know of any plans for the construction of a marina. As to the dredging of a channel, Castillo maintains that isn’t the case. She went on to say that the entire St. George’s Caye was built through the dredge and fill process and that the area isn’t part of a reserve or protected area. And while the Village Council was never informed or consulted, the Minister of Natural Resources is willing to hold discussions with the council based on their submissions for the distribution of lots.

Channel 5


Top
#418064 - 10/07/11 04:35 PM Re: Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye? [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
ST GEORGE’S CAYE VILLAGE COUNCIL’S OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON THE PROPOSED SUBDIVISION AND MARINA PLANNED BY THE MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The St. George’s Caye Village Council has been made aware that surveyors have been on the island conducting a survey for the Government of Belize/Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment in a mangrove swamp in the northwestern part of St. George’s Caye. The area is approximately 7-10 acres in size and it has been suggested and proposed by the Village Council that it be annexed to the existing St. George’s Caye Mangrove Reserve. Unofficial reports indicate that the proposed development includes 31 lots and a marina. To date all efforts from the Village Council to get information from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment have proven fruitless.

In August 2010 St. George’s Caye was officially granted Village Council status. This was an important milestone for the residents and Council of St. George’s Caye because of the privileges afforded a Village through the Village Council Act. The Village Council Act section 47 (1) states:

“The council shall have the following privileges, duties and responsibilities with respect to lands within the village:-“

Which further declares according to section 47 (1) (c):

“before dealing with any lands in the village, the Ministry responsible for lands shall consult the council and take its views into account; and should the said Ministry decide not to follow the advice of the council it shall explain its reasons in writing to the council before effecting that decision, and provide the council further opportunity to present its case to the Ministry;”

Additionally Section 49 (1) of the Village Council Act states:

“Any Ministry or Department of Government intending to make any decision or policy or to carry out any act affecting a village shall consult with the council before doing so and, as far as practicable, take the views of the council into account.”

This is important for St. George’s Caye because during the period 2001-2007, under the past administration, there were three separate incidences when mangrove areas were cut down, filled and parcels given out. In most cases the parcels of land were given to individuals whose only interest in land at St. George’s Caye was to sell it for huge profits. The residents and Council of St. George’s Caye opposed all those developments and filed many stop orders, lobbied the government with petitions and made many visits to Belmopan to try and halt the developments. However, each and every time they were unsuccessful mostly because the Council at that time was a Community Council and did not enjoy all the privileges afforded by the Village Council Act.

The difference between the previous developments and the most recent proposed development on St. George’s Caye are as follows:

1. the island now has “Village” status and the legal backing of the Village Council Act, and

2. the proposed development is considerably larger, comprised of roughly 31 lots with a marina in the center.

The residents and the Village Council of St. George’s Caye have enjoyed a very cordial relationship with the present administration and are very grateful for the recognition they have given to the island. In 2009 St. George’s Caye was declared a National Historical Landmark Site and in 2010 the cemetery was declared an Archaeological Reserve and the island was given official Village status.

With this in mind the residents and Village Council of St. George’s Caye are very surprised and alarmed with these latest developments; even more so because the present administration was elected on a platform that included providing transparency and good governance to the people of Belize.

The current situation is like a landlord walking onto his property and changing the landscaping in the yard without so much as letting the tenant know his intentions. A development of this nature is most definitely going to change the landscape of our Village and we respectfully request to be informed and involved in any development planned for Historic St. George’s Caye.

The Village Council and residents do not wish to make a political issue out of this situation but only want to ensure that any development on the island is done in a responsible and sustainable manner respecting the rights of the villagers and the historical heritage of St. George’s Caye. We respectfully request that the Government of Belize’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment halt all development until it goes through the proper procedure as set out in the Village Council Act.

Top
#418066 - 10/07/11 04:37 PM Re: Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye? [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
from friends....

Sure seems that the Village Council Act is being ridden over roughshod!

---------------------

SOP for the Village Council Act. FYI, Placencia has been trying to get its by-laws passed (authorized by the Village Councils Act) since 2002. Despite many, many attempts (the Village Councils Act requires that the by-laws be passed by the national legislature), no success.

The latest in our attempts to enforce the Village Council Act involves a dock constructed by Alex Kranzberg, of BNE fame. Former Village Council Chairman as his developer/contractor. No consultation with the Village Council. Former Village Council Chairman insists that the previous Village Council approved the dock. No minutes to substantiate, nobody on the Village Council remembers the dock even being discussed.

Dock is built, the Physical Planning Unit issues a letter, of “whoops, we’re sorry, we didn’t really give that permit.” Again, dock is built. What do you think will happen?

Belize is non-functional and dysfunctional in terms of government, good governance and policing.

In terms of non-functional, laws are enacted or policies adopted merely to satisfy international lending/grant requirements. There is absolutely no ability or will to enforce these laws.

For example, what has happened with the tinting law, the seatbelt law, the Village Councils Act, the sport fishing act protecting bonefish, tarpon and permit, the new gill net regulations, mangrove cutting regulations, dredging regulations, etc. Case in point, UNESCO decided to keep the Belize Barrier Reef on the World Heritage in Danger list because they saw no evidence that the Government of Belize had any desire or ability to enforce laws or regulations concerning the Belize Barrier Reef.

Belize is dysfunctional because there is absolutely NO inter-departmental communication, much less coordination. Geology doesn’t talk to the Department of the Environment. DOE doesn’t talk to the Planning Unit of the Lands Department. Nobody talks to Coastal Zone.

And, not only is there no coordination, government officials don’t even know the law and seem to have great disdain for us “little people.” For example, Beverly Castillo, CEO of the Ministry of Natural Resources, told the media a few days ago that she was not aware of any law requiring consultation with village councils before doing something like putting a 31 lot in the mangroves on St. George’s Caye. The Village Council Act requires consultation. But, go a little further into the realm of basic good governance. Wouldn’t it just be plain good governance to actually TALK to the people when you are making major changes in their community?

Also, all we do now is adopt “policies” – policies that don’t have to be followed when it becomes inconvenient. For example, Belize is attempting to adopt a national land use policy that is supposed to be the guiding principle for land use in Belize. Say that “policy” gets passed. (OK, it’s a daydream, but suppose.) It’s not law, just a policy. What happens when a minister wants to reward someone with some land for something like a boat repair yard in the middle of an area zoned residential under the national land use “policy.” How are you going to take a “policy” to court and enforce it? You can’t.

So, we have policies that can’t be enforced, and laws that won’t be enforced, and complete disdain for the governed. Politicians that promise transparency, but make everything as opaque as possible.

Under these conditions, what is happening on St. George’s Caye is no surprise. From a Belize-wide perspective, they should just be happy that nobody has decided to put an 8-story casino, hotel, condo and golf course development there – or maybe they have.

Top
#418074 - 10/07/11 04:45 PM Re: Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye? [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
St Gapi Caye
_________________________
Belize based travel specialist
www.belize-trips.com
info@belize-trips.com

Top
#418146 - 10/08/11 02:21 PM Re: Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye? [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Saint George’s Caye Village Council bypassed; GOB seeks to destroy mangrove environment to build lots

Saint George’s Caye was declared a National Historical Landmark in September 2009, and was thus a fitting location for the opening of this year’s September Celebrations. But the Government of Belize (GOB) has decided to develop a section of the island in a way that potentially threatens the very attributes of the caye that make it a distinct part of Belize’s natural heritage.

The very title, “National Historical Landmark”, would suggest that the island should be left in its pristine, untouched condition to preserve its archeological and historical value.

The problem, however, is that the proposed development by the Ministry of Natural Resources is on a northwestern section of the island that is covered by mangroves. This proposed development consists of a marina, and 31 parcels (in the form of lots) of land to be divided up. The southwestern section of Saint George’s Caye has already been declared a mangrove reserve.

The village council is currently lobbying for the northwestern section to as well be declared as a part of the entire mangrove reserve of Saint George’s Caye.

We spoke to the chairman of the Saint George’s Caye Village Council, John Searle, who told us that the villagers of Saint George’s Caye had lobbied arduously to receive village council status; up until 2009, they had just been a community council.

Searle said that the reason they wanted to become recognized as a village is that previous governments bypassed consulting with the community, and pushed through many detrimental developments that eventually became wasted ventures, and a waste of money.

Searle said that it is the view of the villagers and the council that this matter should have been discussed with them before any plans were made that will affect them. He is backed by the fact that under the Village Council Act, part 8, 47C, it states, “Before dealing with any lands in the village, the Ministry responsible for lands shall consult with the council and take its views into account; and should the said Ministry decide not to follow the advice of the council, it shall explain its reasons in writing to the council before effecting that decision…”

Searle told us that up to today, no one from the Ministry of Natural Resources has contacted him. He said that he made several calls to the Ministry, and he was told that the relevant details about the development were contained in an internal document. The Ministry personnel to whom he spoke, told him that they would need special permission to release it to him.

Searle said that he has contacted the area representative, Minister Manuel Heredia, Jr., who has told him that he has not been contacted by anyone in Government on the matter.

He said that he then wrote a letter to the Prime Minister Dean Barrow, but he has not gotten a written response to the village council’s concerns.

We contacted Searle again just before press time, and he told us that he has received a call from Prime Minister Barrow, who told him that Minister of Lands, Gaspar Vega, is set on sub-dividing the lands, and that the council must deal with him on the matter.

Searle also told us that the Prime Minister was of the opinion that Minister Vega should have consulted the village council, and that he (Barrow) doesn’t know why that has not been done.

The villagers and the council have major concerns with this development. They told us that development of that magnitude will entail a large amount of dredging, which will create a lot of siltation, which will be detrimental to the sensitive fishing area that exists around the island, particularly lobster fishing.

Pedro Alvarez, chairman of the National Fishermen Cooperative, and a fisherman whose fishing grounds has been near Saint George’s Caye for more than 35 years, spoke to us on this issue. He told us that the fishermen in this area have seen the damage that dredging and development have done to their livelihood.

Alvarez said that they fish the area mostly for lobster and scale fish, and that the siltation from dredging created uninhabitable areas for the two species. As a result, the lobster and fish left the area for a large amount of time due to a scum on the bottom created by the large amounts of silt.

This forced the fishermen to find other areas for fishing in the short-to-medium term, while nature dealt with the siltation issue. He said that the moving of fishermen from their respective camps will cause a lot of issues, because they will infringe on camps belonging to other fishermen. This will create major conflict, because these men depend on their camps for their livelihood, and there are limited areas around the caye to fish.

Alvarez said that the fishermen who work in this area will meet sometime soon to discuss a plan of action to air their concerns, but at this current moment, there is not much official information to go on.

When we arrived on Saint George’s Caye, we found land surveyors putting down lines of demarcation. To do their survey, they had to use chain saws to cut down some of the mangroves.

We’ve learned through the village council that the surveyors have been on the island for about two weeks now. These surveyors (a total of four currently) have told the council that they work for the Government of Belize, and they are only doing their jobs.

Chairman Searle also showed us lots on other sections of Saint George’s Caye; he told us that these lots were created by previous government administrations. After the mangroves were destroyed, the dredging done, and the land parceled off, there was no further development. These lands are now in the hands of private interests and they are currently on the market for sale for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It is notable that these lands were purchased at a fraction of the price that they are now being sold for.

Some of the villagers of Saint George’s Caye told us that it makes no sense that new lots be created by destroying the priceless mangrove environment, while there are already these lands that have not been developed.

They told us that if the Ministry of Natural Resources was really interested in doing this development legitimately, they would have consulted with the village council.

They also told us that it makes no sense to create new lands in this proposed area, which will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to properly develop, and destroy a mangrove habitat. They believe that the Ministry of Natural Resources could just purchase the lands that are already available.

These lands would then be used for the purpose they were created, instead of being left untouched after the private interests took over ownership.

Finally, Searle told us that this is not a political fight. He said that as chairman of the village council, he has to be accountable to the villagers, who have been asking questions and demanding answers. He said that if this was a People’s United Party government, he would press the issue just as hard.

In the past, both parties, when in government, have been able to push past them by using the loophole that they were just a community, he said. They are now a village, and they should have a say in what happens to their village, according to law.

We attempted to contact the Ministry of Natural Resources several times today, but we’ve not been able to speak to anyone in relation to this matter. Our colleagues at KREM news have also attempted to contact personnel at the ministry. They’ve also had no success.

Amandala


Top
#418150 - 10/08/11 02:28 PM Re: Mangrove destruction at St. George's Caye? [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

The Battle for St. George’s Caye

There is a development which recently began in the north-western part of St. George’s Caye, which has residents and the village council of the small historic island in an uproar. Rumors of the proposed development surfaced on August 28, 2011 and by September 23rd, surveyors were on the island.

In a letter sent to residents of St. George’s Caye, dated September 29, 2011 Mr. John Searle, Village Council Chairman, spoke of the development. He stated, “From what I can gather, the GOB through the Physical Planning Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources has planned a development for the mangrove area in the back of St. George’s Caye. The proposed development consists of 31 lots and a marina. I first heard of it earlier this month and immediately went to see Minister Manuel Heredia, our Area Representative. He told me he was unaware of the plans and that he would support the St. George’s Caye Village Council and bring up the issue in Cabinet to find out more information. He also suggested that I write the Prime Minister to make him aware of the situation, which I did on September 7, 2011”.

On Monday October 3rd, Chairman Searle invited the media to go to St. George’s Caye to see firsthand the development which is being undertaken without consultation with the Village Council. Other than knowing very little about the development, and the GOB’s complete undermining of the St. George’s Village Council, Mr. Searle’s concerns span to the almost ten acres of essential mangrove ecosystem which will be cleared out.

This, according to Mr. Searle, will have ripple environmental impacts. The entire area which is proposed for the development should be protected under the Mangrove Protection Act. Furthermore, the mangroves serve as nesting grounds for a vast amount of marine life. Dredging in the area will also certainly affect the fishing in and around the Caye, stated Mr. Searle.

In an email correspondence with The San Pedro Sun, Mr. Searle pointed out the following:

• I need to state that the St. George’s Caye Village Council has no political axe to grind. We simply want to know what is going on in our island before it is a done deal.

• These “land grabs” have occurred in the past under the PUP and when we were only a Community Council and we had no legislation that backed us. So the Council pursued Village Status just so it would not happen again since the Village Council Act section 47 c states that the VC must be consulted prior to any dealings with lands in the village.

• Since mailing of letter to residents:

• Media went to St. George’s Caye on Monday and filmed the surveyors still working and they said they were working for GOB.

Following the airing of the story, Village Chair informed us that he had a telephone conversation with CEO of the Ministry of Natural Resources Ms. Beverly Castillo. She indicated that plans were being done under direction of the Minister Vega and unable to release the plans to the Village Council without his permission. She was also of the opinion that the Ministry did not need to consult w/VC until distribution of lands (47 b). According to reports from Channel 5, Ms. Castillo stated, “… the entire St. George’s Caye was built through the dredge and fill process and that the area isn’t part of any reserve or protected area. And while the Village Council was never informed or consulted, the Minister of Natural Resources is willing to hold discussions with the council based on their submissions for the distribution of lots.”

San Pedro Sun


Top

Links
Click for excellent scuba lessons with Elbert Greer!


Things to do

News
Daily News
Daily Weather

Classified Ads
BelizeNews.com
San Pedro Sun
Ambergris Today
SP Town Council
Channel 7
Channel 5
Amandala
Love FM
The Reporter
Caye Caulker
Chronicles

PLUS TV
TV Newscasts
Radio Stations

Click for our
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites

Event Guides
Event Calendar
Specials & Events
Things to Do
SanPedroScoop
iTravel Belize
Paradise Theater

Blogs
San Pedro Scoop!
Tia Chocolate
Tacogirl
My Beautiful Belize
I-Travel Belize
Belize Adventure
Belize Hub
Romantic Travel
Bound for Belize
Conch Creative
As The Coconuts Drop
More Blogs...
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites
Chaa Creek is an award-winning luxury Belize Resort, rated as one of the worlds best Eco Lodges. We are a pioneer in adventure travel to Belize since 1981!
White Sands Dive Shop - 5 Star PADI Dive Facility - Daily diving, SCUBA instruction and Snorkeling
Caribbean Inspired All Natural Condiments & Spice Blends, Over 100 are Gluten Free!
We manage a variety of homes, apartments, condos and commercial properties here on Ambergris Caye. Our minimum lease on ALL properties is six months.
Conch Shell Inn: All rooms are right on the beach in the heart of San Pedro, so within walking distance to anything and everything!!
Lil’ Alphonse has snorkel equipment to fit anyone as well as Marine Park Tickets and flotation devices to assist those not as experienced.
Coastal Xpress offers a daily scheduled ferry run to most resorts, restaurants and private piers on the island of Anbergris Caye. We also offer  private and charter water taxi service.
Mini Chat

Cayo Espanto
Click for Cayo Espanto, and have your own private island
More Links
Click for exciting and adventurous tours of Belize with Katie Valk!
December
S M T W T F S
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Who's Online
4 registered (Pokey, Marty, 2 invisible), 38 Guests and 6 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
18,672 Registered Members
44 Forums
64,032 Topics
462,234 Posts

Most users ever online: 1,262 @ 06/10/07 07:16 PM




AmbergrisCaye.com CayeCaulker.org HELP! Visitor Center Goods & Services San Pedro Town
BelizeSearch.com Message Board Lodging Diving Fishing Things to Do History
BelizeNews.com Maps Phonebook Belize Business Directory
BelizeCards.com SanPedroDaily.com Picture of the Day

The opinions and views expressed on this board are the subjective opinions of Ambergris Caye Message Board members
and not of the Ambergris Caye Message Board its affiliates, or its employees.