The Prince and Little Iguana Caye’s unsanctioned development
Officials of the Department of the Environment were in San Pedro Ambergris Caye this week to assess dredging activities taking place near the San Pedro Marina Channel for which a stop order was imposed. While conducting site inspection, they ran into another development project; this one located at Little Iguana Caye also off San Pedro. But lo and behold, there is no paper trial on this development which started smack in a reserve. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
This tiny, mangrove-covered islet some ten miles northwest of Ambergris Caye, is one of several in a string of islands that have been designated as habitat for various species of aquatic birds. It remains completely unpopulated, save for the dozens of red ibises that nest atop the dense vegetation. Aroma Caye is an unspoiled sanctuary for avian life. Adjacent is another small island called Little Iguana Caye. This too was a nature reserve until it was sold off under the previous administration. Development has begun here, albeit without the consent of the Department of the Environment.
Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer, DOE
“In the case of Little Iguana Caye there is no file. There is no application, there is nothing in our office regarding that undertaking. However, during the site visit again conducted, we realized that construction has started, I understand, of a two-story, over-the-water structure which is even more of an issue in terms of development, you know.”
The property, roughly an acre and half in size, belongs to James Prince. An unspecified tonnage of sand has since been reclaimed as landfill and work on developing the island was underway until it was recently discovered that the titleholder had foregone all requisite clearances.
“We issued a stop order, a verbal right away because we don’t know anything about it. I don’t know if other agencies know about it.”
“Do you know who the principals are for that development?”
“I understand there’s a real estate agent or agency that is behind it, purporting to act on behalf of the owner of the island. Those are the information that we are gathering to get the facts in order to see what can be done in accordance with the legislation. However, the fact remains that we didn’t know and from the team that went nobody knew anything was happening and no application has been done with us at least, yet construction is happening in a sensitive ecosystem.”
The cluster of islands surrounding Ambergris Caye is prime real estate, owned mostly by foreigners. The island and its outer environs have become boomtown for tourism and development. This area is ideal for flat fishing and as such attracts anglers from all over. Unlike Royal Belizean Land, Prince commenced improvement on his property without taking into consideration the sensitivity of the reserve.
“What are the sanctions that can be brought against this particular landowner?”
“It depends on the type of development. You know, if it’s a small development like what we were referring to previously or if it’s a medium-sized or a huge multi-faceted project with various components or if it is in a sensitive area ecologically speaking or non-sensitive area, what permits or licenses they have applied for an gotten prior to starting construction with us or from other agencies. Those are the information which determine what type of charges can be brought upon them but again prior to going to court we’d like to look at that as the last resort when we don’t have any cooperation from anyone, be it one side or the other.”
In this case, Alegria says legal action will be brought against the owner for failing to notify the relevant government agencies of the plan to develop Little Iguana Caye.
“It’s looking at what is being proposed; what the damage if any has been done already—because that’s another implication in terms of financial charges of damage to environment and procedural charges in terms of not having complied with certain things.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.