Government agencies visit to monitor enviromental compliance

The ever-growing barge landing eyesore.

Representatives from three Central Government agencies visited Ambergris Caye on May 14th and 15th and checked into a number of subjects affecting the environment. The team viewed videos, made personal visits to sites and did a flyover of the north end of the island. A meeting at the offices of the Belize Tourist Board was scheduled for Thursday, May 29th to discuss some of the recommendations. More details on this next week. A number of complaints have been filed with government agencies and a "letter to the editor" campaign is in full swing regarding the barge activity at the south jetty next to Coconuts Hotel.

Following is a copy of the report filed by the Department of the Environment summarizing their review for compliance of various activities affecting the environment:

Department of the Environment Compliance Monitoring Site Visit Report

Date of Visit: 14th and 15th May, 1997
Location: San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize C.A.
Purpose of Visit: A team of officers from different environmental agencies conducted a two-days monitoring visit to San Pedro to investigate into the following matters:

Visited by:
Mr. Albert Roches, Environmental Technician (DOE)
Mr. Michael Palacio, Ministry of Natural Resources
Mr. Alfonso Avilez, Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Dept.

Persons Contacted:
Mr. Alberto Pat, Park Ranger, Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Dr. Wil Lala, Owner/Manager, Caribbean Villas
Mr. William Campbell, Pilot

Major Observations: 14th May, 1997


We met with Dr. Lala, Owner/Manager of the Caribbean Villas, one of the dozens of persons who have expressed concern regarding the barge operation in San Pedro. He claims that he and several other hotel owners in the area are losing customers due to the air, water and noise pollution coming from the barges operations. He claims that Caribbean Depot Shipping Co. Ltd., one of the shipping agencies in San Pedro, was not abiding by the guidelines set out by the San Pedro Town Board in 1995 (see copy of letter with guidelines attached). Editor's Note: (The letter was published in the San Pedro Sun, Vol. 7, Issue 21, dated May 16, 1997 titled Caye Chapel water barge goes uptown).

We were then taken to the site, which we were made to understand belongs to one Mr. Blake, who has also been trying to get the said operation off his property. Upon reaching the area, we saw that there were a few rusty containers and equipment stored on Mr. Blake's property. Unfortunately there were no barges nor tugboats at the docking facility, where, according to people reporting: when these are operating, they create plumes which could be seen going all the way to the reef.

We then visited the proposed site for the new docking/barging facility on the west side of San Pedro Town, where the Town Board is attempting to establish an agreement to get a private contractor to dredge/fill the new canal for the docking/barging facility (copy of agreement attached). It must be mentioned that this area is the same area the Town Board has approved to be the official docking area for barges and tug boats, etc.

We visited the area immediately north of the San Pedro River, where a subdivision has been approved by the San Pedro Lots Committee. Upon arriving at the site we saw lots where the mangroves have been cleared all the way to the river's edge. From a short walk and a boat tour around the area it is obvious that most of these properties are waterlogged. According to some reports a number of these lots may have as many as fifteen (15) feet of water.

Road Construction:
Later that day we conducted a site visit near the Bacalar Chico Reserve to pinpoint the area where according to reports received at the DOE, Mr. McDermot had started the construction of a road. From our observations we saw a road constructed all the way up to the edge of the beach, goes a few yards inland and then goes north.

In San Pedro Town we met with Mr. Bill Campbell, a pilot who took us in his plane to get a better view of the road constructed by Mr. McDermot. During the flight it was observed that the road, approximately ten (10) miles long, started near Punta Azul (just south of the southern border of the Bacalar Chico Reserve) and continues mainly along the coast (within the 66ft reserve). It must be noted that almost the entire road passes through the Bacalar Chico Reserve.

15 May, 1997:
The following day we visited several properties for which the Ministry of Natural Resources had received applications to construct seawall and/or pier.

From our observation of a map of the sites, it was evident that most of the properties were adjacent to each other and that there were signs of considerable erosion in the area. The areas that showed massive erosion were those areas adjacent to a groin or an existing seawall.

The sites visited were the properties of Ann McGlaun, Shirley Nelson, James Patterson and Mary Stephenson. The construction of a series of adjoining seawalls would have minimum impact on the scarce mangroves in the area.


With reference to this particular issue, the DOE recommends that the San Pedro Town Board, the Coastal Zone Management Unit and the Central Government, namely the Ministries of Natural Resources, Tourism and the Environment and Agriculture and Fisheries, view this matter as URGENT, as further continuing of this activity can have a devastating impact on the Tourism Industry in San Pedro and the Belize Barrier Reef itself.

Various alternatives should be considered, reviewed thoroughly and decided upon as to the most suitable for the people of San Pedro, the environment and the business operators. The Town Board should write these barge owners of their intentions to make null and void the agreement if they do not begin to abide by the stated conditions IMMEDIATELY!

As for the subdivision, the Department of the Environment has yet to see a plan and with respect to past and the recent site visits, the DOE would recommend that the Chairman of the San Pedro Lots Committee be asked to stop the subdivision until all aspects (including social and environmental concerns) of such activity have been properly discussed/addressed. Therefore, a "Stop Order" should be immediately submitted to the San Pedro Lots Committee by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Road Construction:
It is recommended that both the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the DOE take legal action against Mr. McDermot, who has constructed approximately ten (ten) miles of road through a legally established Reserve, through the sixty-six feet reserve and without written permission from the MNR or any other relevant agency. Such actions should be dealt with and an example set for other developers in Belize, who may have the perception that they are above the law. The DOE and the MNR should start looking into the issue of gathering evidence so as to start the legal actions in court for this particular incident. Seawall Construction: With reference to the construction of seawalls in San Pedro, due to the extent of erosion in the area, the DOE can only agree that a seawall is necessary but would like to mention that considerations should be given for the construction of the seawall to be one "a continuous seawall" and that the design be one that will prevent any further erosion of the other neighboring properties.

The property owners should also be made aware that the portion of land filled behind the seawall and the survey posts are public property and not their private property.

Date report written: 19th May, 1997
Signature and title of officers:
Albert Roches
Environmental Technician
Department of the Environment

The saga of the barges continued this week with complaints continuing to roll in from an organized neighbourhood.

Another letter was forwarded from the Mayor's office to Caribbean Depot (the main user of the south jetty/pier) as follows:

San Pedro Town Board
May 22, 1997

The Manager
Caribbean Depot
San Pedro Town
Belize, Central America

Re: Loading and Unloading

Dear Sir,
Two weeks ago the San Pedro Town Board sent your company a letter requesting you to please operate between certain hours of the day. The board continues to receive information that these requirements are neglected. For the second time we ask your company to follow these requirements.

Enclosed you will find letters of complaints about your company. Please feel free to contact the San Pedro Town Board at any time.


Alberto Nuñez
Mayor, San Pedro Town

San Pedro Sun

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