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Environmentalists Say No to Port Magical Belize

Environmental agencies and stakeholders have expressed opposition to the development of the Port Magical Belize proposed to be built six kilometres south of the Sibun River.  Vice President of Oceana Belize, Janelle Chanona-Coye spoke with the media last week to explain the extent of damages such a development could have on the waters and marine life.

Janelle Chanona-Coye , Vice President, Oceana Belize

Janelle Chanona-Coye , Vice President, Oceana Belize: “Everything that we do on land, on the coast has immediate practically immediate and direct impact on our marine resources. It’s one of the things that we tout in our tourism brochures you know ? In two hours you could go from hiking a Mayan temple to diving along the reefs so it is a great visual to show the proximity but it also gives you a – one of the things I want to call out to that point is the point that we shared earlier in that the way the water currents and the movement of that water is particularly in this area of Belize City, we were given a presentation by an international scientists that showed these are attracting areas so they were highlighted using red just to show these areas in particular once something gets in that zone it remains there. So if you look at the number of projects in that area and look at four, between Stake Bank, Port Magical, the Port Expansion and now the cruise ship port that’s being proposed in this very tight area you have all of this development happening it cannot be that you’re looking at those independently because the combined collective impact will be very very significant immediately in this proximity but most importantly going out to the rest of the reef. We worked with mathematicians out of the UBC in Canada and they calculated the minimum  amount that’s being proposed by the Port of Belize Expansion project just as the example 5 million cubic meters was equivalent to the length and breadth of Caye Caulker at a foot deep that’s how much material we’re talking about. If you poured everything, five million cubic meters into the Great Blue Hole it would be a little bit more than half of the Blue Hole being filled with that amount of material and lastly if you can think about a school bus how big a school bus is it would be equivalent to 200,000 school buses – and that’s just the 5 million cubic meters there were some estimates initially thrown out that it would 7.5 million, there was a estimate of 10 million.”

Oceana along with several other agencies have appealed to the decision makers to consider the impacts and to make sound decisions based on those impacts.  Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Sustainable Development Dr. Kenrick Williams is the current Chairman of the National Environment Appraisal Committee and expressed the need for further assessments on the proposed project.

Dr.Kenrick Williams, CEO, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management

Dr.Kenrick Williams, CEO, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management: “The key concern I think that the NGOs have is the creation of this artificial island, the use of sea bed materials to create these artificial islands or islands and the issue that is associated with that that is the sediments, floatation, the impact of corals, impact on manatees and some of these key things so that really has come to bear and has come to focus on the last weeks. When we started this process, when we came into government and took over we understood that a lot of these reviews have occurred and so they were supplemental information that was required. However in looking at this proposal further, this and the other proposed development in coastal Belize we saw that there’s need for further assessments. We have gotten information of published work from assessments being done in Miami and other key areas that tells us that we need to take a further and in depth look at some of the issues that has been raised for example by the coalition that has been raised by other entities that have vested interest in the reef, in the natural resources and the impact that these type of development. The other key thing is that we have to look at this in terms of cumulative impacts because there’s this and other proposed developments within the area and so we want to make sure that when there’s a decision that there is careful assessment of the challenges issued from these type of development. What we’ve done is we’ve adjourned the proposed meeting which was supposed to be held last Thursday to ensure that we do the proper analysis, to ensure that we do the proper review. I’ve asked the members of the NIAC for example in the adjournment to kindly review carefully with keen focus some of the challenges that are being brought to our attention and being brought to focus because the truth is that it’s a committee of experts and so there are members from various other government agencies as well as coopted personnel who are part of this review process and so we’re asking them to carry out in some detail the necessary review to inform the decision.”

The CEO also spoke on the process that is being taken by the committee to ensure the proper discussions are being with stakeholders.

Dr.Kenrick Williams, CEO, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management: “The Port of Magic Belize this is the third review, the third meeting of the NIAC being held and as we understand it there was just additional supplemental information that was required by the committee however again because of the information that we’ve understand I think it’s best that we do proper review, proper assessments of those potential impact just to ensure that we are doing our jobs appropriately and we’re doing our jobs correctly, that we’re carrying out the proper review. So that one goes back to the NIAC at the next NIAC meeting along with the BECOL project. The Water Loo project may be in the subsequent NIAC meeting.”

The Proposed port is located in the southern part of the country near the Gales Point Manatee Community.