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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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GOB subdivides part of the proposed reserve area

The San Pedro Sun can confirm that a grant awarded to Hol Chan Marine Reserve by the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) has been cancelled and is considered null and void. The grant of $199,500 was awarded to Hol Chan on October 7, 2013 for the management of the proposed expansion of the current marine reserve. The proposed 'Ambergris Caye Wetlands Project' expansion document has been before the Cabinet for the past three years but has yet to be signed into law. On the wake of the cancellation of the grant and delay of the signing of the proposed reserve, the Government of Belize (GOB) is surveying a part of the swamp and wetland to distribute housing lots within the proposed reserve.

The proposed expansion of Hol Chan would include Mexico Rocks, the wetland/swampland areas near Mata and Cayo Frances Lagoons (Conservation Area) and the shoal on the leeward side of Ambergris Caye. Combined, the three areas have an area of 370 square kilometers and the management zone of Hol Chan would expand to over 400 square kilometers when added to the existing Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The proposed expansion of Hol Chan would strengthen Belize's conservation efforts since when signed into law, it would be a part of a larger corridor of protected areas which would border the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

The PACT grant was slated to be used for the initial stage of the management of the proposed expansion of Hol Chan. The money was to be used for the purchase of additional patrol vessels and salary for the additional personnel for the first year. Now that proposed expansion has been shelved, and after an additional three months' grace period was extended, PACT decided to cancel the grant.

Manager of Hol Chan Marine Reserve Miguel Alamilla did confirm that the grant was lost. He explained that the documents for the proposed reserve expansion were submitted to the Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, headed by Honorable Lisel Alamilla. He said that the Minister is responsible for taking the document to Cabinet, then to the House of Representative for it to be signed into law.

A letter dated July 28th leaked to The San Pedro Sun and addressed to Beverly Wade, Fisheries Officer indicated that PACT was cancelling the grant. "The Board considered that the project commencement is currently delayed by nine months and the reason for the delay is the legal expansion process which is outside your Department's control�. Therefore, the Board has decided to withdraw the grant awarded for the execution of this project. Consequently, please be advised that the grant agreement entered into on the 7th of October 2013, is considered null and void," stated the letter which was signed by Natalie Rosado, the Acting Director of PACT.

"We got the grant and were given the assurance by the Government of Belize that the proposed reserve expansion would have been approved and the Statutory Instrument (SI) would be signed into law," stated Miguel Alamilla. He said that when the project initially went before Cabinet for consideration, some Ministers, including the Area Representative Manuel Heredia had some "concerns," and as such the proposed reserve saw some "setbacks." He indicated that those concerns were clarified, but over the past three years "dates after dates" have been set and changed for the proposed reserve to be signed into law.

The San Pedro Sun was also reliably confirmed that the Government of Belize, through the Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr., is working in collaboration with Council Severo "Severito" Guerrero in surveying over 40 acres of wetland/swampland within part of the propose reserve. The area, in which survey work has been carried out, is the southern portion of Area F, which is the proposed protected area along Mata and Cayo Frances Lagoons (Conservation Area).

The wetland/swampland is being subdivided with the intention to distribute residential lots. The concern was raised since the proposed subdivision, which is believed to be five times larger than San Mateo, would create yet another inadequate housing development for the island if the lots are distributed for future residential expansion. According to the source, by giving out the pieces of "swamp," it would encourage people to build in yet another unplanned area without any form of infrastructure, thus creating a similar problem like San Mateo, but on a much larger scale.

The San Pedro Sun contacted Mayor Daniel Guerrero, who confirmed that a subdivision is being planned but said that the project is not a San Pedro Town Council project and is being conducted through Heredia Jr. The Sun also contacted Lisel Alamilla for comments. Alamilla responded by text message indicating that she is not aware of the subdivision since it falls under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture. When asked for further comments as to why the proposed reserve expansion has not been signed into law, she did not respond. The San Pedro Sun will be following up on this developing story.

San Pedro Sun

Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 13,675
More info on the history of this is here;

White Sands Dive Shop
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 13,675
The majority of voters are poorly educated and naive. They don't understand whats going on and believe politicians that tell then they will be given land for their votes. This is exactly the same pattern that created the San Mateo slum. Impoverished voters are told of how they will be empowered by owning land the government gives them and promised infrastructure at a later date as they take possession of uninhabitable swamp. In the case of San Mateo international agencies came to rescue inhabitants living in health hazards when government didn't come through with the promise of infrastructure. [Linked Image]
San Mateo Something our local government can be proud of.
They created this beautiful community by cutting down some old ugly mangroves.

White Sands Dive Shop
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 732
A lot of people hide behind pseudonyms on mssg boards. So for those of you who do not know me, this is Jeff from Rojo Beach Bar/ Azul Resort. Hello all.

So the other afternoon I went to drive the road to Grand Belize estates (road going west on the island, just south of Indigo.) I wanted to see if I could see any tarpon rolling or bonefish tailing. I parked at the bridge and looked south. To my amazement, I saw three people walking in the middle of the lagoon. They looked to be carrying slings to spear fish... "Kind of a tough place to spearfish?" I thought... They were walking north towards the road. As they got closer I was like "Wait a minute...?" I realized they were not carrying spears... One was carrying a case, the other a tripod, the third a chainsaw. They were surveying. They were in water up to their chest.

"Want to take a picture of us for Facebook?" They yelled/joked...

I replied "Tough place to survey, you been out there all day?" They then realized I was not a tourist. I waited and they eventually got to the road.

"So who do you work for, Ken or someone or the town?"

"The Town..." they answered... Whether they meant the SPTB, GOB, who knows... We then talked about what they were doing. And what they are doing is (pardon my language Marty) absolutely [#%!] insane.

I mean I was there to FISH. This is the "land" they are giving away. Parts of it are four to five FEET under water. It is NOT swampland. It is a LAGOON. I've been there in boats before.

I looked around and then realized I saw dozens, if not a hundred survey stakes in the water.

So not only has the whole Cayo Francis Reserve been shit canned (thanks Heredia and anyone/everyone else responsible for stalling a genuinely great idea/effort to its ultimate death) but it's been replaced by what has the potential to make San Mateo look like the Hamptons.

So this is what buys you a vote here on this island? Really? You're given cheap title to a piece of land you will NEVER responsibly be able to inhabit and in return you check off the name of someone who obviously does not give a shit about the future of this island. Sad.

What's the point of improvements on the island, if we simultaneously green light disasters in the making such as this?

Sure, chances are, even if given title to the land, no one is going to build there for quite some time. I mean after all, it's under water. But at some point someone will halfheartedly fill then build. And then someone else. And it won't be done right. And it will be another disaster.

This island is being primed to be 300-400 feet of high $ development from the beach going west, abutted behind such by a sea of slums. Is that really what we want???

Last edited by SFJeff; 09/12/14 04:29 PM.
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline

from a friend�

Note, pretty much the entire area you are looking at has been surveyed. It's confusing because it looks like mostly water, not "land." That's because it is. Zoom in on the pics and you can see all the stakes in the water. There are a couple shots looking back to the east. One is taken at the furthest WEST point that has been surveyed. You can see the tower behind Indigo to give you a scale of the area. The other is taken looking east from the bridge, about 40 feet past the last survey marker. In the pictures looking SOUTH, the survey markers go off for about as far as you can see in the distance. To get closer pics of all the markers I'd have to go by boat.

The markers are all but indistinguishable because they are far away. They are far away because I did not have a boat. Pretty much EVERYTHING you see in the pics looking south from the north and looking east from the west has been surveyed into lots.

Click any image to get a larger version....

As far west as was surveyed

Looking east from the bridge

Squint and you'll see survey stakes to the horizon

View looking south from road

Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 724
Heredia...yet another sell out! Makes me sick. He and Mayor Danny are absolutely thick as THIEVES, literally. You never see one without the other. And for whatever reasons, they are clearly only doing what the majority of elected politicians around the world do in this day and age. Get what they can get for their own personal gain. And we idiotically just keep voting them in, over and over. Freakin' 'sheeple'! Are we ever going to wake up.

Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 13,675
Now it seems less confusing why Heredia had this to say last year -
According to Minister Heredia, the proposed protected reserve should be handled in sections with a primary focus on Mexico Rock's Marine Reserve. "We need to have as much space reserved to benefit the tourism industry but certain factors need to be addressed. These factors include the allocation of dredging areas," said Heredia. "Mexico Rocks is ready and we need to move ahead with that, then we can move with the less controversial Cayo Frances/ Mata Frances Lagoons and finally we can tackle the Bajos area which is the most problematic because of dredging. The community has to remember that once this is legalized this will be the largest Marine Reserve in the country," continue Heredia, "Once the proposal allocates areas for dredging for persons that own property within the area, the project has my full support."
- He's gona need a little dredge for this area to be land.

White Sands Dive Shop
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Here is a background article on the creation of San Mateo subdivision.

August 10, 2000

San Mateo Phase II - Financially and Environmentally Unsound?

The San Mateo subdivision Phase II is being proposed on North Ambergris Caye on a 590-acre section of wetlands, lagoons and mangrove swamps. The plan calls for 308 lots to be "created" for housing. The site of this proposed subdivision has caused much controversy and criticism in recent months. The tract in question was given to local government by Caribbean Coves as a future tax credit. According to unconfirmed reports this area was given because the developers thought it to be undevelopable. This pristine acreage between Buena Vista and Punta Arena was designated as a conservation area in Ambergris Caye's Conceptual Master Plan of 1993. This "land" was also designated a site for protection in a Wildlife Sanctuary Expansion and Management Plan proposed by Green Reef, the local marine conservation group. That plan in turn, was endorsed only last year by both Mayor Alberto Nuñez of the San Pedro Town Council and Area Representative Patty Arceo, and subsequently the Belize Hotel and San Pedro Tourist Guide Associations. The "land" is composed of mainly wetlands, mangrove and lagoons that the coastal ecosystem depends on as a critical feeding and nesting ground. It is also a nursery and suspected spawning area for mutton snappers, cubera, bonefish and tarpon. Lobsters are often found in this area as well, since there are a number of sinkholes that tunnel out to the reef through underground waterways. Recreational activities include bird watching, hiking, kayaking and sport fishing as just a few of the many income earning eco-tourism benefits. The above reasons illustrate how development would negatively impact the environment and adversely affect the island's natural resources and economy in the process; by destroying wildlife habitats and sabotaging the eco-tourism market. Development of this area is also contrary to many international environmental agreements of which Belize is a member, including the International Ramsar Convention and the World Wildlife Fund. Proposed development of this area is already generating negative publicity from other countries and eco-conscious organizations which may result in the loss of future tourism dollars and jobs for the local population.

The need for decent land and housing is of great concern to all on Ambergris Caye. The San Mateo subdivision, as proposed will not give the residents of this island either but rather, will continue the cycle of slum conditions for the residents it was designed to help. As stated by the local Area Representative, the proposed San Mateo Subdivision will not be given basic infrastructure such as water and sewerage at this time. Residents who purchase a lot will not have access to clean, fresh water for cooking, bathing or drinking. Homeowners who currently live just on the other side of the cut of Ambergris Caye, are seen crossing the ferry daily, carrying five-gallon buckets, in search of water. The occupants of San Mateo will have to hike miles daily in order to secure potable water. With a lack of sewage and refuse disposal in a plan for a subdivision that is to contain 308 houses, the health risks to the residents of the island and visitors is tremendous along with being an environmental disaster in the making. Where is the waste and refuse to go? A series of canals are in the plans. This is very disturbing since a series of underground channels empty out to the reef. Without proper garbage and sewage disposal available it is feared the sewage and refuse will be dumped into these canals and eventually choke and destroy the reef. This area is also three feet below the flood line and subject to storm surge and erosion. Our Area Representative stated government will not fill this land which can only mean the landowners will be responsible to have it filled. Observing other subdivisions on Ambergris Caye shows that, usually, people do not have the money to properly fill their lots, and subsequently trash or any other material available is used, compounding the contamination to, and destruction of, the environment. It has been stated that this subdivision was to be a model, that other subdivisions were poorly planned and lacked the proper infrastructure along with having a negative environmental effect. This subdivision, as proposed, except for destroying a unique area of our eco-tourism market and possibly losing local jobs, is said to mirrors all the mistakes of the past.

The Department of Environment, Coastal Zone Management Authority/Institute, Fisheries, Lands and Forestry Departments have all visited Ambergris Caye and made a visual inspection of the site, most by kayak. DOE issued their report in May of this year denying environmental clearance for this project. All preliminary reports from subsequent agencies indicate the same conclusion; this land is not suitable for development, as it would have a detrimental effect on the environment and be cost prohibitive. At a meeting held in May of this year, attended by Green Reef, Area Representative Patty Arceo, members of the Belize Hotel Association and concerned citizens, it was stated by our Area Representative that an EIA would be requested before any final decision on the project would be made. At press time no EIA has been requested or ordered for this project yet it is rumored from San Pedro to Belmopan to be a "done deal". Mr. Mito Paz, President of Green Reef had this to say at one of many meetings dedicated to this controversy: "In essence our natural resources bring tourism, tourism breeds employment which brings workers to the island, which in turn brings a need for development and necessitates a need for land to build on. But if we destroy the reason that tourism is here (our natural resources), we will not have a need for any of the rest."

Editors note: According to government's own Environmental Checklist this area would NEVER be a suitable site for development. If government does not follow the proper procedures and laws they made, how can they be enforced on private individuals or companies? Will the hotels proposed on North Ambergris Caye with a total of 500 rooms have to have an EIA done before construction begins? Will they need to have the basic infrastructure such as water, refuse and sewage disposal in place? Or will they be allowed to save millions of dollars by digging a canal and using the ocean as their toilet? Will this set a precedent for any home-owner or resort that wants to cut costs by saving thousands in water bills by disposing of their sewage into the ocean?

There is no logical reason to destroy this land, local jobs and the environment along with costing the taxpayers millions of dollars trying to make this land semi-inhabitable and at the same time condemning its inhabitants to slum conditions. There is plenty of GOOD government-owned land available on Ambergris Caye. The Ambergris Caye Conceptual Master Plan of 1993 designated the land to the west of the proposed subdivision site as a satellite town. The area is high, dry land that has the proper foundation to build on and is five times the size of San Pedro proper. It is the area most residents feel would be best suited to build on and would do the least amount of damage to the environment. Like any properly planned housing development it will need to have the proper infrastructure in place. It is a way to have your cake and eat it too by balancing the environment and development without sacrificing either. The million-dollar question is, why is this government-owned land not available to the people of Belize? The answer remains a mystery.

It is time to let your elected officials know how you feel about this project before it is too late. They are elected, by you, to serve you. Call, write letters or e-mail your Town Council ([email protected]), Area Representative ([email protected]) and Minister Briceño ([email protected]) with your opinion. What happens to your island is your decision, but if you do not speak out now, you will not have lost your voice, you will have given it away.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Here are more articles from the San Pedro Sun on San Mateo from the year 2000. Makes interesting reading.

These articles from 2000 showi how much effort was put to protect those wetlands, but the area rep and local government still went ahead to create a slum as predicted by Green Reef.

San Mateo put on hold

Development vs. Environment

Natural resourses reports on wetland issue.

San Mateo Subdivision Plan disclosed

San Mateo explained and debated:

From Wetlands to Subdivision in North Ambergris Caye?

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 732
Thank you Marty.

I certainly hope this matter gets deserved attention in the weeks to come.

Residents on the island need to recognize that this has NOTHING to do with red or blue, with party affiliation. Arguably, on a deeper level, it has little to do with politics at all. People need to realize that if things like this are allowed to happen ultimately it is not the politicians who are to blame, rather, the community as a whole. We are to blame, as we are willing accomplices if we sit passive and silent, resigned to thinking such things as "inevitable" or the "result of growth and progress."

What is on the brink of happening is tragic on numerous fronts. The land in question will NEVER be able to be inhabited responsibly. Who here would willingly condemn their children or grandchildren a daily life in substandard, unhealthy conditions? Anyone? Please, ask this to one of our elected officials next time you see them on the street, either party, it does not matter... ask them "How much $ would it take for you to ensure that the future of YOUR children or YOUR grandchildren is bleaker, worse than it is now?" I'm sure they would look at you aghast and and say there is no price that is worth such. Yet that is exactly what they are doing. What we are allowing them to ensure.

This island and ALL of us are 100% dependent upon tourism. That is not a brilliant new insight, we all know that. But lets put that statement into perspective for a moment...

In terms of basic needs, Ambergris Caye produces nothing of significance. We grow not the food to feed ourselves or our families. Virtually everything that you and I and everyone else enjoys at meals every day is brought to the island in some way or another, save for seafood, which itself is becoming scarce. The island does not have enough fresh water to quench our collective thirst. We're dependent upon foreign electricity to purify such. Fuel to run our boats, propane to light our stoves, all are imported. There are no trees on the island to be harvested from which lumber can be made. Everything to build our homes is brought from somewhere else. Even the sand used to mix concrete has to come from rivers on the mainland. The chickens we stew, the beer and rum we enjoy, all come from elsewhere. This list can go on and on...

Arguably, we enjoy one and only one significant resource. The island itself. This island, the reef and waters that surround it, the nature that it encompasses, this is the ONLY resource we enjoy. Any and EVERY decision that it made to its detriment, takes away from EVERYONE residing here. Each and every action allowed for short term gain but at the expense of long term sustainability is being paid for by everyone's children and grandchildren.

The GOOD thing is these challenges are by NO MEANS be insurmountable. Ambergris after all, despite the growth of the last decade, is still by any standard of the world a SMALL community. We need to start acting as such, a community. Forget the free t-shirts and recognize party affiliation is meaningless. Do I expect that the island as a whole can segue into synchronized harmony? No. Do I expect that there will no longer be boisterous shouting matches during meetings at the Lion's Den? Heavan's forbid not, as discourse is very often a much needed catalyst for positive change.

For better or worse though, everyone who lives here now, and plans to live here in the future, is all in this together.

The sooner we recognize such, the sooner we become stewards to protect, nurture and conscientiously enjoy the only true resource we have.

Last edited by SFJeff; 09/15/14 09:03 AM.
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