|From the air, one can see the clearing of mangroves in the proposed South Beach area. |
Last week, The San Pedro Sun had a front page article speaking of the South Beach Development and the fact that Director Jeff Pierce had sent out an email looking for investors. This came as a shock because of the magnitude and location of the development and the fact that South Beach Development had not submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Department of Environment (DOE) at the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Photographs clearly showed that the site of development had already had mangroves cut down to make way for an access road. Without a proper EIA, DOE had no alternative but to deliver a formal “cease construction” notice to Director Pierce. Martin Alegria in DOE stated, “We were aware or became aware increasingly so within the last month or three weeks about construction activity that has already started on this project, or at least a portion thereof, the casino portion within even starting the EIA or the environmental screening process. So, hence, last week, Thursday (May 15th) or so, I think the Minister asked and we, all heads of departments went out there, we went out there to speak to the developer to let him know and advise him on the way forward. At that meeting we basically advised him to cease and desist on the construction activities which he said he was going to do. Yet, we heard two days ago, that he started and the weekend he was constructing again with heavy equipment. So, those are the type of things we have to deal with. To, the extent that yesterday (May 21st) we sent an enforcement notice first. We try to bring them in and negotiate. Legal issue is the final option available. So we issued an enforcement notice, we prepared it yesterday and as I speak I think it has been served to cease and desist on all developmental activities until the process is dealt with, the EIA.”
Telephone interview with DOE revealed that South Beach has indeed submitted a Terms of Reference (TOR) which is being reviewed at the moment. Once the TOR is reviewed, the EIA will then get its proper revisal by DOE and the National Environment Assessment Committee (NEAC).
However, fines can be levied on South Beach for cutting down the mangroves in the site without first getting clearance and with a moratorium in place. A press release dated February 15th, 2008 from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment stated that “with immediate effect mangroves are placed under a moratorium thus, all mangrove alteration permits are hereby suspended. The moratorium, which will be in effect for an initial time of nine months, is to enable the Forest Department to conduct an assessment of the state of mangroves in the country […]” A call placed to the Forestry Department revealed that they were unaware of the South Beach Development and the fact that mangroves had been illegally cut. According to Windsor, the department only became aware of the situation on May 28th. “We will be sending out some officers next week to assess the damage and see if charges should be brought against South Beach.”
Plans for South Beach Development can be seen at: www.southbeachbelize.com.