Many people are voicing concern lately over
the future of the land formally owned by Caribbean Coves and now owned by
the town of San Pedro. Local sources confirm that a survey is underway
and that a subdivision is being planned by government in an area of
mangroves and wetlands with further commercial development in store for
the area. The Ministry of Natural Resources has signed a letter of
provisional approval to subdivide 500 acres for 308 lots between the
areas of Buena Vista and Punta Arena and this letter was carbon copied to
the Ministry of the Environment as well. This land is a critically
important area that marine and wildlife ecosystems depend on and had been
designated as a site for protection in a wildlife sanctuary proposal by
the local marine conservation group. Environmentalists and neighbors
alike are spouting their concerns over surveying taking place without
mangrove removal permits and whether there will be an Environmental
Impact Assessment; regulations every developer must comply with.
Issues concerning infrastructure include: water and
sewer, landfill, roads and bridges. Others deal with dredging, cutting of
mangrove and whether proper measures will be taken to protect the
environment. The main question has been, "Why start another development
when they haven't fixed the rest of the mistakes in developing, such as
San Pedrito and other poorly planned areas of Ambergris Caye?" After
contacting the San Pedro Town Council, the San Pedro
Sun learned that only the surveying had been ordered and
they had contacted Coastal Zone Management Authority/Institute. No other
plans will be discussed until the results of the survey are studied. It
was stated that it was not known whether plans would be presented to the
people in an open forum meeting or not.
Following are some of the letters
received by the San Pedro Sun this week
in response to the planned subdivision. Anyone who has concerns or
questions about this proposal should contact Area Representative Patty
Arceo's office for further information.
Coastal Zone Management Authority
cc: San Pedro Sun
Dear Mr. Cruz,
As President of Green Reef, the environmental
education, conservation and advocacy organization of San Pedro Town,
Ambergris Caye, I would like to express my grave concern relating to the
current proposed residential development located north of San Pedro. When
I met with you last week, we discussed some of these matters, but I feel
it is imperative to further outline them in detail.
The proposed area of development (approximately 500
acres) is primarily composed of wetlands, littoral forest and lagoons and
is located approximately one mile north of the San Pedro Town cut. This
is an environmentally valuable area due to the presence of the wetlands,
which act as a giant sponge absorbing large amounts of water during rains
and are capable of trapping sediments and toxins from terrestrial run-off
that would otherwise damage this fragile habitat. Moreover, mangroves and
littoral forest are present in this area and are an essential component
of the wetland ecosystem. In addition, they naturally create a physical
barrier to inland areas and provide protection from storm surges.
For the past two years, we at Green Reef
have become very familiar with this area and have even included these
wetlands for protection in our Proposed Wildlife Sanctuary Management
Plan (submitted to the Department of Natural Resources). Many migratory
and resident bird species depend on these wetlands, littoral forest and
lagoons as a critical feeding habitat. Likewise, other animals, such as
crocodiles, depend on this area for
breeding and foraging grounds. It is our fear that if these wetlands do
not remain intact or are inappropriately developed these animals will
ultimately be forced to look elsewhere for habitat. Habitat destruction
is a principal reason species become threatened or endangered.
Moreover, this wetland area is comprised mainly of
open water and lagoons; it offers a unique recreational area, providing
kayakers and bird-watchers alike an unspoiled natural habitat to explore.
Developing this area will no doubt diminish its attraction as a
recreational area, thus hindering the livelihood of many tour guides who
frequently use the area.
It is our understanding that as of yet, little or no
environmental impact studies have taken place in the proposed development
area. As with all wetlands, this area is highly saturated and is
currently unsuitable for development, thus dredging and filling will
inevitably be used, a method that is notoriously damaging to this fragile
ecosystem. Furthermore, the proposed development is outside of town and
across the river, thus there are questions as to how sub-divisions will
be connected to water and sewage, actions that, done without proper
management, could potentially degrade the environment. These are only a
few reasons for our insistence that studies take place before any
The aforementioned concerns result from a history of
developments that have not been properly planned in San Pedro.
Residential developments in the San Pedrito and Boca Del Rio areas are
perfect examples of what can occur in the absence of proper environmental
studies and planning. To make the land more suitable for development,
both areas needed to be dredged and filled, and mangroves were removed.
These efforts alone did not guarantee that residents would be provided
proper living condition, and as a result, many San Pedranos live in what
are considered little more than slums. Furthermore, sewage from these
residents is currently leaking into the creeks. Waterways that were once
considered pristine are now lined with debris. Is this what the future
holds for the proposed residential development?
Green Reef is requesting that Coastal Zone Management
Authority/Institute investigate this issue further and take time to
consider alternatives to this proposed development. Thus far, Green Reef
has made appeals to the San Pedro Town Council and Area Representative,
but we are asking for your additional support and assistance in this
matter. Ambergris Caye simply cannot afford to lose one more area of
environmental significance to yet another development of slums.
/s/ Mito Paz
President, Green Reef
Dear San Pedro Sun,
Please allow me space in your newspaper to voice my
concern over a proposed sub-division in the wetlands behind the Punta
Arena Area of Ambergris Caye. The wetlands of Ambergris Caye, primarily
consisting of mangroves and lagoon, are the backbone of our environment.
This is the area that combats global warming by removing carbon from the
air as well as being the nursery for our Marine, Reptile and Bird life.
This environment is critical to maintaining our Island's beauty and
reputation as an eco-tourism destination.
The proposed sub-division is on 590 acres
of pristine mangroves and lagoon.
Our Area Representative, the Honorable Patty Arceo,
graciously agreed to meet with local businessmen, Logan Gentry, San
Pedrano Dive Master, Alonzo Flota and me. She took time out of her busy
schedule to outline the proposed sub-division. She explained that 590
acres were defaulted back to the Town Council for non-payment of taxes.
The Town Council wishes to implement San Mateo Phase I on this acreage.
It would consist of 308 residential lots, a number of commercial lots and
numerous Government lots for purposes such as a football field, police
station and fire department. While I whole heartily agree that this
sub-division is a wonderful idea to provide much needed land, I adamantly
believe that the lagoon is not a good place to implement this new
I believe that everyone on Ambergris Caye should feel
blessed to live on our beautiful island. We all make our living in or
around the environment, whether it is fishing, diving, eco-tours, lagoon
kayaks, hotels, restaurants, tour offices, gift shops, water taxis,
airlines, or any other business. If we destroy our environment we will
have destroyed our livelihood along with the trust that Mother Nature put
in us to protect Her Island.
These wetlands are also the very ones that Green Reef
has been trying to designate as a Wildlife Sanctuary. The status of
Wildlife Sanctuary would allow these magnificent lands to remain intact
for future generations. I would like to propose to the San Pedro Town
Council that El Pescador would commit to raising US$100,000 in order to
have the Town Council donate the lands to Green Reef. Green Reef will in
turn protect our wetlands for all that live and visit the island to
Please help us protect La Isla Bonita! Voice your
concerns in this forum, to the Minister of Natural Resources, The
Forestry Department, the
Fisheries Department and Our Honorable Patty Arceo.
/s/ Ali Gentry