During our visit to Caye Caulker Village, residents complained about the removal of mangroves. The community is claiming that a patch of mangrove, which helps to combat erosion, was cleared by a well-known businessman on the island. Our newsroom understands that the area was cleared and dredged to expand the land for the construction of a hotel. We asked the CEO of the Ministry of Blue Economy, Kennedy Carrillo, to comment on the difficulty of striking a balance between sustainability and economic development.
Kennedy Carillo, CEO, Ministry of Blue Economy: “Mangrove clearing is a big issue. Mangroves actually fall under the responsibility of the Department of Forestry under the Ministry of Sustainable Development. But as a Ministry of Blue Economy, we also have, definitely, a responsibility to be able to work with the Ministry of Sustainable Development to ensure that the right policies are in place to protect our mangroves. But then, obviously, education, awareness- a lot of times we see that the communities do not appreciate the importance of mangroves, for example, in this case that protects us from so much. And so I think that we need to continue working with the communities, dialoguing, because like I always say, sometimes we find ourselves in between that important balance of, yes, we want development, we need to move forward, we need to clear. But, where and how? And making sure that we are making the educated decision. I think that, um, it’s very unfair to generalize, because I will not stand here in front of all of these cameras and tell you that everything is perfect. Because I will not be lying; I want to be very honest. At the Ministry of the Blue Economy and Civil Aviation, in these 16, 17 months that we have been in leadership with this mandate, we have really done this as transparent as possible. We have always reached out to the communities; we reach out to the media. We are out there every single day trying to respond. As I said, um, mangroves are under the responsibility of the Department of Forestry under the Ministry of Sustainable Development, but yes, it is our responsibility to also work with them, and to call attention. As you know, this is also the area of our Minister of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation, and he takes this very seriously. And so, we ask the communities to reach out to us, you know, and whatever we can do in an advocacy capacity, we will also be able to do that.”