(Photo above: Progresso Road taken a few days ago. The road is inaccessible now )

Corozal – Sep. 20th - This particular situation hits me personally since I have so many friends in the beautiful villages of Sarteneja, Chunox, Copper Bank, Progresso, Consejo and other surrounding villages. These are the most humble, peaceful and hardest working people, I have run across in Belize. As Editor of the Corozal Daily, I stand firm in solidarity with them as I feel their pain. It is sad and a crying shame that at a time of Belizean Patriotism/Nationalism, as we comfortably celebrate and rejoice at home our Independence Day Celebrations that for the past months, these villagers and residents have been enduring much pain and suffering in silence.

Their road condition is farthest, the worse. In some areas deep ravines have carved themselves out on the road making traffic impassable and unbearable. Water is as high as 2 feet and more in some areas.

This falls nothing short of the oppression, marginalization and malignity against those that don’t seem to have a voice. It is social injustice and travesty by those that don’t give a damn and those that do not stand up for them. These villagers are tired and have had enough of not being able to make it to their work or just the simplest task of getting their children to school on a daily basis makes it unbearable. This is utterly troubling my friends and I don’t buy the Ministry of Work’s explanation that they have nothing to do with the road project. They have everything to do with it as the overall responsibility of this project lies in the hands of the CEO of the Ministry of Works and the Supervising Engineer is the Ministry of Works, so they are directly responsible for the good governance of this project. Yesterday, the contractor Bella Vista Development/Lopez Equipment Co. Ltd. via a Joint Venture spokesperson stated to the media that the project had been suspended. We ask why since it never got underway?

Belizeans are becoming intolerant of being fooled and everything seemingly being pictured as honky-dory when it is not. It is no longer business as usual. We are tired of the ball always being shuffled around and around when controversy arises in these issues. The poor people in these areas have had it and paying a high price on these games of chance played by both political parties. I am sick of it and WE all are sick of the schisms. In July 2011 a multi-million dollar contract had been signed by the contractor. The work was to commence November 21, 2011 and ended 18 months later on May 21, 2013. This is the second time that the project would seem to have been suspended after 5 years. The first time was on this Government’s first term in office in 2008 when the funds were diverted to Albert Street in Belize City. Is this punishment for the hardworking people of the north, particularly Corozal? Why? The current funds were said to have been allocated under the European Union’s AMS 2008 Sugar Belt Road Rehabilitation Project-Phase 2, which would have seen the paving of the 16 miles of road from the Orange Walk San Estevan Bridge to the village of Progresso in the Corozal District. Where are those funds today?.. Certainly not on the ground and we want to know where is this money? The road project is certainly a key role in the development and growth of the Tourism Industry in these areas but most important for cane farmers and agro business who use this stretch of the road especially during the crop season.


(Photo above: Ferry Road to Pueblo Nuevo Ferry/Progresso)

The condition of streets and roads in general has deteriorated in our beautiful Corozal District but even a greater problem has emerged now, due to the past 12 days of continuous rain and flooding. A more striking thought is the noxious spillage of garbage from the dump taking place right along the Consejo Road. For the record, we respectfully draw the immediate and urgent attention to the Ministers and Area Representatives responsible due to a continuing health and safety problems between Corozal Town and Consejo. The road of some 8 miles length is constructed of compacted white marl which is failing to withstand the heavy traffic it now carries. The road invariably floods in the rainy season making it almost impassable. Along the main road at approximately Mile 3.9 lies the Corozal Waste Dump, which is now posing serious health and environmental hazards to the Consejo Communities.

The Consejo communities comprises Consejo Village, Wagner’s Landing, Consejo Shores Development, Maya Seaside, Buccaneer Bay, Casa Bay, in addition to our cane farmers and numerous locals who work as builders, yard help, housekeepers and caretakers and who commute to town on a daily basis. Consejo Village includes a Custom’s Post. The Community has one hotel (Casa Blanca). Between Corozal and Consejo there are several new housing developments Royal Colony Estates, Tree of Cortez, the Oasis and a Hotel (Serenity Sands). The rural area of Consejo produces fruits, vegetables and sugar cane drawing water from the local water table. The population of the community comprises Belizean nationals and foreign nationals who have either come to retire in Belize or stay there for up to 6 months of the year (“snowbirds”).

The Consejo community has grown in size over the last 10 years and now represents a significant, dependable, tax base for the Government of Belize and contributor to Belize’s Gross Domestic Product by remittances from abroad paying for local goods, services, utilities, construction materials. Significant numbers of local Belizeans are employed in these communities in maintenance and construction tasks. The increasingly problems of access and the health threats (especially contamination to the water table) posed by the Corozal Waste Dump are hardly congenial to further development and may force the community into a decline. In addition, local children have been unable to attend school on a regular basis due to the road conditions and flooding.

The road access to the Consejo Community is failing to support current levels of road traffic and inhibiting further development of the area by deterring potential investors. The marl surface is only graded two or three times per year, without adequate road shaping, wetting and compacting. Even light rain degrades its surface to cause excessive wear and tear to vehicles and hazards to road safety. Among the latter is the excessive amount of waste that falls from the local government waste disposal trucks, whose loads are insecure.

The Corozal Waste Dump is located at mile 3.9 and consists of no more than an open area in the bush where any waste can be dumped. The local authority arranges for the waste to be piled and burned when weather permits. In wet weather the area floods, pouring unbearable stinking, contaminated water across the Consejo/Corozal road and large amounts of floating debris. In warm weather the dump is infested with insects, rats, scavenging dogs and vultures, There is no control over the materials dumped there, which include;


(Photo Above: Consejo Road Dump Site. The vehicle taking the photo is on the side of the road. The black slime of contaminated water floats for about a mile north on the main road )

  • faeces present in nappies, incontinence pads etc;
  • dead animal carcasses;
  • hazardous liquids such as paint, varnishes and cleaning products;
  • car and other batteries;
  • blood-borne infectious material within used needles/syringes and drug/sex litter;
  • broken glass and other sharp items;
  • plastics, batteries and electronic equipment;
  • waste food products;
  • waste construction material;
  • petroleum products.

The Dump can emit gases such as methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and mercury vapour and a mixture of volatile organic compounds. Metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), chlorinated hydrocarbons, dioxins, asbestos, pharmaceuticals and pathogens leach from the waste dump into the flood waters and the water table. Burning waste introduces to the local atmosphere lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, arsenic, beryllium, dioxins, PCBs, PAHs, PM10 and SO2.

Microbial pathogens are also a potential source of hazard. They can attach to footwear, vehicles, bicycles, insects, birds, animals and dust and be this transmitted over a wide area.

Health risks from the hazardous substances in the Dump can occur via four means:

  • skin contact, especially through cuts and abrasions or through contact with the eye’s mucus membrane;
  • injection through wounds caused by sharp materials and by contaminated insects, animals or birds;
  • ingestion through hand-to-mouth contact (commonly experienced when eating, drinking or smoking)
  • inhalation through the lungs. The threats posed to health by the Dump include;
  • Reproductive effects such as low birth weight (less than 2500 g), fetal and infant mortality, spontaneous abortion, and birth defects.
  • Increased frequency of cancers can occur, particularly for gastrointestinal, esophageal, stomach, colon and rectal.
  • Respiratory symptoms, irritation of the skin, nose and eyes, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, headaches, psychological problems and allergies.

The Corozal Daily understands there is a plan to construct an adequately managed land fill site in the Corozal District and implore the execution of the plan with expedience, given the health risks of the existing Dump.

We also implore that the Consejo/Corozal road be upgraded in the following manner;

  • Road base to comprise of appropriate grades of stone and be raised above flood levels.
  • Road base to be shaped to allow surface water to run off.
  • Adequate across-road drainage is provided, i.e. culverts.
  • Adequate side road ditching is provided to collect surface water and run it away from the road surface.

The Corozal Daily takes the liberty today on the eve of our independence day, that as we celebrate we also address these pressing and human issues at a turning point in the way forward for this community. We ask the local chapter of the Corozal Belize Tourism Industry Association, Ministers of Works, Health, Minister of Tourism, Labour, Natural Resources and all Area Representatives of Corozal to draw appropriate attention to these urgent problems facing a community of Belize which honours fully its obligations to the State with no less wish than to see our “Jewel” shine as it should. God Bless the people of Corozal. God Bless Belize…./continues

Photos


(Photo Above: Approx. Mile 1 – Corozal/Consejo Road)


(Photo Above: Approx. Mile 1.5 near the Dump Site – Corozal/Consejo Road Bicycle riders have to come off their bikes and walk through this muck to get to work. This is inhumane and a social travesty) Note: Small vehicles cannot drive through

Courtesy: Corozal Daily