Developer cuts through Biological Corridor without permission
Minister Lisel Alamilla has issued a stop order on a development in a protected area in the Belize District. The developer, a Guatemalan company named Green Tropics Limited, was dredging a canal in the hearth of the reserve and the government is looking at its legal options. It is not known when the land was acquired by the Guatemalan company, but in August 2010, the Ministry of Natural Resources, along with wild cat conservation group Panthera, signed into law the creation of a protected area designating over seven thousand acres of crown land in the Belize District for use as a key jaguar habitat. The stretch of land, known as Labouring Creek Jaguar Corridor Wildlife Sanctuary, serves as a passageway for the big cats to rove. Green Tropics has illegally cleared a substantial tract of land which it intended to use as irrigation for a sixteen thousand-acre sugar cane plantation. The undertaking, according to Minister of Forestry Lisel Alamilla, was not green lighted by the Department of the Environment since an environmental impact assessment was not approved prior to commencement of the project.
Lisel Alamilla, Minister of Forestry
“We were just alerted to this sometime last week, late last week. And then last week Friday, I understand, that we got a copy of the EIA but this activity had already occurred, or was occurring rather.”
“What are the steps being taken now to either put a stay on this activity or to try to bring it under control?”
“My last briefing from the Forestry Department and the Department of the Environment was that they will serve these people with a cease and desist order and they will also remove them from the area. It is within a wildlife sanctuary [and] this is unacceptable and so then we will find out more after that. It’s also gone to the Solicitor General’s Office for advice on how we can proceed legally.”
“Now my understanding is that it poses an ecological threat to wildlife within that particular area. Can you expand on this?”
“Yes. The importance of that area is the Central Belize Corridor which connects the northern forest to the southern forest right across the Western Highway, around the zoo, around that area and that is the only remaining corridor that would allow the movement between big mammals like jaguars and tapirs to move between the north and the south. So it’s very important in how this area is developed.”
“In terms of a protocol dealing either with the ministries involved, was there a miscommunication or was there a lack thereof in terms of presenting this [EIA] to you prior to the activity taking place?”
“I had no knowledge of it and the truth is that perhaps this idea may have been presented at Cabinet before, I don’t know, but it doesn’t mean that they are exempted from complying with the requirements of the Department of the Environment or the Department of Forestry, you know. Developers need to become aware that we have laws and that they can’t plead ignorance and that forgiveness, they can’t come later and say forgive us and we can continue. That has to stop. They have to become fully aware as it’s their responsibility to become fully knowledgeable as to how they go about investing and developing and doing development activities in Belize.”
Dr. Howard Quigley, Panthera’s Jaguar Program Executive Director, and Gaspar Vega, Minister of Natural Resources, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on August 9th, 2010 to work together on activities to maintain the Labouring Creek Jaguar Corridor Wildlife Sanctuary.