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Orange Walk Residents are Concerned of the New River Conditions

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The New River is extremely essential in the lives of many Orange Walk residents. Some use it as a means of transportation, others use it to fish, and some use it to take a Sunday swim. Recently, the river has experienced a change in conditions, which can be seen as well as smelt. The river, which was once dark green in color, is now a milky green. Love News reporter Naim Borges travelled to the river to see firsthand what state the river is in.

Naim Borges: “I am here today at the Blanquitas House of Culture in the Orange Walk Town, a few feet from the New River where I can visually see a discoloration in the water and a distinct smell permeates the air. Today we’re invited by concerned citizens to take a first-hand look to see what the river is like.”

Geovanni De La Fuente – Resident of Orange Walk: “What we did so that we could see the difference between what is a healthy section of the river and an area that is currently being affected we went upstream a couple of miles where we noticed the color changed. We started coming back downstream and we encountered this milky green situation. Along the way we visited behind L & R Liquors, behind BSI/ ASR, then we were behind the actual Orange Walk Town proper and so after Orange Walk Town we continued in one direction towards Corozal to see how far it was that the river is being affected but obviously it was miles and miles of the same situation so we turned around and we came back. We are using the water from this river. Imagine the hundreds of people that depend on this river to catch fish, turtles and other wildlife so they can consume and so they can sell. Imagine all this happening and as far as I am concerned, the Department of the Environment is quiet. I have not heard any statement about water quality for the residence of Orange Walk. I have not heard any statement saying that you should not consume the wildlife from this river. The Department of Environment is out of hand, they need to address the situation and address the people of Orange Walk Town so we can know what’s going on. Is the water safe? Should we consume the fish? Once we have done that then I believe other pressure groups should step up and light a big fire under the Departments seat so that the Department will identify who is the culprit if there is a culprit.”

Naim Borges: “The Deputy Mayor of Orange Walk joined us today on the boat ride and told us that every year the Ministry of the Environment tests the river but the Town Council has never received the results of those tests thus year after year the Orange Walk residents are forced to use the river in this condition.”

Ian Cal – Deputy Mayor of Orange Walk: “ This is an issue that has been going on for many years however this year it has gotten worse. We have never seen the river the way it is this year. It started to happen about two months ago I would say where we started to see the color of the river changing, then milky substance floating on top of the river and then it comes along with the stench. We have gotten the concerns because as you know as local Government everyone comes to the Town Council to ask questions or to try to find out what is being done about the entire issue so we have been getting those concerns especially about the stench of the river and the wildlife that lives around the river. If you notice on the boat ride and two weeks ago it was much worse. Anything this water touches even the water lilies, the fish are dying, the plants are dying, it is something that is in this river that is killing the wildlife and even the flora and fauna so we have to find out exactly where this is coming from and what is causing it but like I said it happens every year but this year it is much worse. We have been in dialogue with the Department of Environment. Like I said about two weeks ago we took a river tour together with Program for Belize where they did some tests and we saw the Department of Environment out here together with the Health Department. We saw them going into the different Industries along the river but we haven’t heard from them. We sent them a personal email to ensure that they report back to us so we can then report back to the people but until today we have not gotten any response as to what were their findings in these Industries? Or what did they see because we cannot just go into these business and look around but they have a mandate to do so. We are waiting on that and to me personally, it has taken too long. Every year like I said this happens and we have never gotten a report as a Town or local Government itself.” 

Naim Borges: “During the boat ride, the Captain told us how the rivers conditions affect him and many other businesses that depend on it.”

Errol Cadle – Owner, Lamanai Eco Tours: “The concern of this river was for many years in and out around the month of March, April and May. We noticed a discoloration in the water, the stench in the water and fish started floating in the area. Because we are having a drought in the country of Belize we notice that it is a lot worse than we have seen for many years. For at least three months now this river has been really bad. I have traveled up and down this river, I like to do fishing alot in this area, you don’t see the tarpons rolling any more, you don’t even see the crocodiles in this area, it is really bad. If you come here on Sundays you will notice that there are many different places alongside the banks of the river. I own a little sports bar, there are many other places alongside the banks of the river where people  want to come and recreate on Sunday. As a kid I used to come and swim in this river for many years, today you are even afraid just of just touching the water. During the month of March, April, May, June we get the rainy season that starts and it would all flush out and go away. This year, unfortunately, there is not the rainy season so it is just lingering on in the area.” 

Naim Borges: “Residents are concerned not only for the New River that affects them but also the sea as the river eventually leads out to the sea waters of Belize. Reporting for Love News I am Naim Borges.”

Many residents believe that the Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) has some impact on that changes that have been occurring in the New River. In responden, the BSI said only that they continue to monitor the river, through internal and external mechanisms regularly, as is required under the Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP).///////////////////

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