The splendor and beauty of the Lamanai Archaeological site is being threatened by a nearby dredging project believed to be a prospect for oil exploration in that fragile area. According to the Northern Tour Guide Association, members of the community are sounding alarms about the close proximity of the dredging taking place south of the Lamanai Maya site. Oil prospecting in Orange Walk is as much concern for residents and ecologists as it is for the various Nonprofit Organizations that have banded together to lobby against it.
On Tuesday, June 8th, members of the media along with BTIA members and tour guides set out to visit the scene; a 40 minute boat ride through the New River Lagoon. Long time resident of Orange Walk, Wilfredo Novelo was among the first to notice the dredging of canals taking place several months ago. “I started seeing activity like what is happening in Shipyard with the Mennonites building large barges on land and they brought a huge metal boat. When I asked what the purpose of it, they told me it was for drilling oil. In regards to who is behind it, the workers on the site that I spoke with were tight lipped and did not disclose any solid information. The artificial canals within the vast wetlands are believed to be used in the prospecting exercise. We have an obligation as Belizeans to save and secure the health of the river for our future generations.”
Errol Cadle, tour guide, expressed his anguish on the matter and stated that this will definitely affect his and Belize’s livelihood and especially ruin our fragile eco-system. “I’ve been a tour guide for most of my life, and visitors enjoy all the splendor and glory of this area. It’s rich in history and for us to suspect that the black gold is being prospected in this area leaves us with great concern; this could be a disaster. If there would be a leak it will be very catastrophic because the river flows this way. It will destroy everything in its path and the birds, wildlife and fishes will be gone. A majestic barge equipped with oil drills and an old beaten up boat named ‘Horizon Bell Florida’ were anchored on the river side. This was used to dredge the linear canals upstream, in close proximity to diverse terrestrial and riverine eco-systems that surround it. Also, the Lamanai Maya site is very close and we are greatly concerned”.
It is uncertain who or which company are behind the project. Novelo confirmed that there is only speculation about oil prospecting activities to happen in the New River Lagoon Area. The Association (NTGA) will be contacting the Department of Geology for a confirmed report and to inquire of any dispensation granted. The New River is the most historic and largest freshwater lake in Belize.