General — 02 May 2006 — by Lisa Carne, B. Sc. - Marine Biology

Scarlet Macaw is the largest planned resort in Belize, with a maximum occupancy of almost 13,000 people. It includes two golf courses, a casino, hundreds of private homes and condos, and a 400 slip boat marina. To view the site plan, go to: http://www.destinationsbelize.com/scarlet_macaw.htm. To put this into perspective, the current population on the entire 16-mile long peninsula is only around 2,000 people.


So the scale of the project alone should send red flags up for any conscious Belizean: where will the solid waste go? The wastewater? And where will they find enough potable water? Electricity? Brown-and blackouts are regular events on the peninsula. How will BEL support this extra load? What about the estimated 600 additional vehicles? What happens during hurricane evacuation? And where will these 1,000?s of people be coming from and how will they get here? Cruise ships?


There is an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for the project, but it reads just like all the other ones (Plantation, Coco Plum, etc.) because the same consultancy firm writes them. If you take the time to read through hundreds of pages, you will find the science is often lacking, the calculations erroneous, and huge impacts are not even addressed. These EIAs are an insult to the collective public intellect.


For example, insufficient water quality testing was done in the lagoon, and also for the underground aquifers that will supposedly supply all the water needs.


The calculations for solid waste were done incorrectly; they assume each person produces 3 lbs of solid waste per day, but that comes from Belize City data; most of the Scarlet Macaw patrons will be North Americans or Europeans, who make 4.6 lbs a day of waste in San Pedro. So even if the resort is only at 40% occupancy (approximately 5,000 people), there are an extra 8,000 lbs of solid waste per day that aren?t addressed in the EIA. Where will this go?


Nowhere does the EIA account for the solid waste or sewage from the 400 boats docked in the marina. Worse, the EIA doesn?t address the critical issues of chemical and pesticide run-off from the golf course, nor the very real social, economical and cultural effects of such a large scale development on the region. For example, schools, health clinics and evacuation. What about the escalating rates of drug-related and gun violence, and even suicides, prostitution and child abuse already present in rural villages?


With regards to population issues and carrying capacities for natural resources, each EIA for each development assumes it operates in isolation. In other words, they show elaborate calculations for water consumption and garbage generation for each new resort, but who is overseeing the growth of the entire peninsula? Where are the projections that include all of these new giant developments (Zeboz, Cocoplum, Someplace Else, Scarlet Macaw) AND the current exponential growth rate for Placencia and Seine Bight? Who is looking out for the peninsula?s future? The area representative? The Department of Environment? Natural Resources? BTB?


To add injury to insult, the developers plan to cut a horseshoe-shaped canal out of the east side of the peninsula, creating an ?island? and destroying the continuous strip of beach. It is so typical of the American man to want to ?improve? on nature?s perfection: didn?t they look at a map? Don?t they realize Belize has 100s of islands, many of which are for sale? If they want an island for their guests, they should buy or lease one, not make one out of a peninsula (not condoning those sales either)!


This aspect of the project alone will kill reefs and the 165-ft. jetties will cause erosion south of the project. Fine sediment cannot be contained and will suffocate corals and cloud the clear Caribbean Sea forever, as the dredging will have to be repeated as sediments build up again.


Just who are these developers? ioVest development, LLC, a Chicago limited liability company formed just the other day (2004). Their website (www.aramacao.com) boasts they searched the entire Caribbean before choosing Belize. Why? Because nowhere else would even consider such an environmentally degrading project. Other countries require legitimate EIAs and have more serious permit and zoning requirements. It is also unclear if they actually own the land yet: will they get government approval and begin carving the peninsula, only to run out of money and abandon the project? Is it merely a coincidence that this company and BTB share the same public relations firm?


These types of projects will change Southern Belize forever and should not be allowed. Southern Belize is still a rural, undeveloped region teeming with wildlife on shore and underwater, and this is precisely what attracts tourists: it is why they visit and drop their dollars in Belize. Developments of this scale will ruin the natural bounty and beauty forever, and take away the Jewel?s self-identity: these types of resorts already exist in Costa Rica, Hawaii, the Caymans and the Florida Keys.


Lest you think you might enjoy a few holes of golf or throwing your money away someplace besides Princess, rest assured, locals would not be allowed inside this gated community!


Everyone who lives on the peninsula is well aware of these issues and they came out in force last Wednesday night to make that clear to Government. Will Government listen? Creole, Garifuna, Gringos and Spanish were united in their opposition to Scarlet Macaw.


Glenn Eiley, Placencia Village Chairman, said quite succinctly that he is not opposed to development per se, but to the scale, and is most adamantly opposed to any cut in the peninsula, a view supported by all those present.


Will you add your voice to the issue? Poor Belize is facing so many environmental and social pressures and impacts: dams, cruise ships, unregulated mangrove destruction, oil exploration, etc. Let?s control and limit what we can! The deadline for comments and concerns has been extended indefinitely. You can e-mail your concerns to: envirodept@btl.net. No computer? Send a registered letter to: Jorge Franco, Dept. of Environment.


If you would like more information (view the EIA and scientists? review of the EIA, Riversdale?s opposition letter, etc.) go to: www.destinationsbelize.com/ara_macao_resort.htm.

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