Squatters for many years have erected structures in an area known as Krooman Lagoon just off the George Price Highway in Belize City. Krooman Lagoon is an important ecological area as it is a catchment area. Recently, a dispute over a portion of the land erupted between squatters and businessman Jack Charles. We asked Lands Minister, Cordel Hyde for an update on how this issue will be addressed.
Cordel Hyde, Minister of Natural Resources: “People have been on that land for several years. I think it’s not gonna be an overnight solution because they’ve been there for some time. I know that the Krooman Lagoon area for many years have been said to be of intrinsic ecological value particularly as it relates to being a water catchment area for Belize City communities. I’ve had discussions with the Deputy Mayor of Belize City. I was really proud of how he handled the situation by ensuring that the persons there had the access even though the land owner owns the land and has the right to do as he pleases but I think we live in a country where we have to learn to work together and not be always colliding and always up in arms and try to figure how we navigate, how we live together.”
Harry Arzu, Stann Creek Correspondent: So the folks are still there ? They’ll be staying there ?
Cordel Hyde, Minister of Natural Resources: “They’re still there. We had a meeting recently with urban planner Carolyn Trench Sandiford who had done some work in regard to that area. There’s also another planner who has done some work recently Ms.Keisha Rodriguez that we’re supposed to meet with to get the research that she has done on that area. We have to meet with the environment people to ascertain how important the area still is as it relates to being a catchment area. It’s gonna require a lot of effort from a lot of departments to make sure that at the end of the day we do the right thing whether it means relocating those folks in that case we would have to find land for them we’re prepared to do that but we’re not near to a decision or near to a solution just yet we’re working on that it’s a process. As I said those people didn’t reach there overnight but it’s a lot of people we’re trying to ascertain exactly how many people but some say it’s over two hundred persons. The water there is deep so it’s not like you can just go in and survey and put streets and all that kind of stuff.”
Krooman Lagoon is an increasingly threatened urban ecological space. The importance of the area as a wetland habitat and important water catchment area for the city has long been recognized prompting the designation of the Krooman Reserve as a public reserve under the National Lands Act in October 2007. But that didn’t stop squatters from settling on the area. Additionally, in 2009, approximately 9 acres of the reserve was sold to a Belize City business man who commenced land reclamation in the portion of the reserve that was sold to him; the sale was subsequently revoked due to public pressure. Following the controversy, the government of Belize indicated that the area would remain as a reserve and any developments would be in accordance with the master plan of the Southside Poverty Alleviation Project, which proposes that the area be made into an attractive nature reserve while creating employment and self-sustaining activity community residents.