From Channel 5 news August 13th 2009

Mile long road of problems for San Pedro developer

Last week News Five reported on the controversial development in San Pedro Town by developer, David Mitchell. Mitchell is constructing a mile long road that will connect the east and the west of the island over marshy wetlands. The roadway will also provide access to two housing projects, one by government and the other by Mitchell’s company, Grand Belize Estates. The road construction was actually the responsibility of the Town Council, but because it is cash-strapped, Grand Belize Estates offered to build it. Construction started but at least two concerned environmental groups voiced concerns about the method and the swiftness with which it is being carried out. The concerned groups object to construction being done without an Environmental Impact Assessment and feel that the damages will be irreversible to the sensitive mangrove area, which fish use for spawning. At a news conference called by Grand Belize Estates last week, San Pedro Town Councillor, Juan Alamilla had asked the company to cease all construction until a way forward could be outlined. And the company’s consultant, Frank Panton, had agreed that if the requests were strong enough then the company would heed it. But on Monday when we checked, work was still progressing despite the agreement. Alamilla informed us that the Town Council called a meeting with the concerned groups and Panton late Monday to make clear its position on the project. We spoke by phone to both Alamilla and Panton.

Juan Alamilla, Councillor, San Pedro Town Board (Via phone)
“They haven’t stopped and they’re more or less closing one of the creeks, so I called an urgent meeting with Mr. Panton, the representative for Grand Belizean, and Mr. Elito, Mr. Billy Leslie and Mr. Jose Gonzalez. The Mayor decided to ask Mr. Panton, the representative to please stop a while and then come with a plan.”

Marion Ali
“But hasn’t the damage been done already?”

Voice of Juan Alamilla
“Practically yes, part of the damage is done so we decided to bring Mr. David Mitchell today.”

Marion Ali
“But sir how they have been allowed to continue with this project when no EIA was conducted and nothing from the Department of the Environment was ever completed and approved?”

Voice of Juan Alamilla
“Yeah well that is something that we have to accept part of the blame right because we are responsible for the northern road and, like we say, we have to take any consideration. Not because we can just go over anybody right and I tell the mayor that this has to stop immediately and we have to see what damage is there and how we are going to proceed.”

Frank Panton, Consultant, Grand Belize Estates (Via phone)
“I am saying that minimum disturbance has been done to the water environment.”

Marion Ali
“And it’s not going to affect the livelihoods of these fishermen?”

Voice of Frank Panton
“That I’m saying, yes. Once the road is up then the road settles, this is how you build roads. Then you cut out the places where you do the culverts and the bridges and all of that, we figure, that it can be done quickly. Now if the material is there already it is the worst to stop because this is the time environmental damage can be done if you leave it blocked up. They want to stop the project and if the project is stopped for five months that’s when the damage will occur.”

Marion Ali
“But the project should not have even started without an environmental impact assessment.”

Frank Panton
“I won’t argue with that but I won’t agree with that either. I won’t argue with you on that one right, it’s a valid concern, I agree.”

Alamilla says the Town Council will seek the advice of environmental experts and if corrective measures need to be taken, the cost will be borne by Mitchell’s company.