BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 10, 2016–A tourism developer is facing fines in excess of BZ$10,000 after reports that it had illegally dredged around Gladden Caye, causing substantial alterations to the environment without authorization.
On Monday, November 7, the Southern Environmental Association (SEA), based in Placencia, Stann Creek, reported on a site visit conducted last week Wednesday, November 2, when it discovered that workers of Lowen Construction Limited were dredging the area and dumping sand on the smaller island at Gladden Caye.
Gladden Caye is located roughly two miles from Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserves, managed by SEA for the benefit of the tourism and fisheries industries, since it is also an important site for fish spawning aggregations. Dolphins and whale sharks are among the attractions there. According to SEA, substantial damage has been done, potentially affecting breeding grounds for commercial species.
SEA said via its social media post that, “The natural ecosystem in and around Gladden Caye is being undermined by irresponsible development.”
“The larger island was filled up to 3 feet [beyond the] original height with spoils from the burrow site,” SEA said, in an attached press release.
It added that the activities had not been authorized by the Mining Unit in the Ministry of Natural Resources. Neither was the Fisheries Department engaged in identifying the burrow site, nor was the approval of the Lands and Survey Department received for the construction of a seawall. It added, that the developer did not adhere to the 66-foot buffer required to protect the shoreline when mangroves are cleared for development.
Two days after SEA’s statement, the Ministry of Natural Resources issued a release, confirming that violations had been perpetrated, notifying that the developer is facing sanctions and calling on the development to make contact with the Ministry by November 15.
It issued a public reminder to Gladden Caye Resort Ltd. and its agents that it had been issued with a “cease and desist” order last week, Wednesday, November 2.
According to the Ministry, it is an offence to mine, prospect and/or remove minerals without first obtaining a permit/license from the Mining Unit.
Amandala understands that the developer is also facing fines from the departments responsible for the environment and lands.
The Government warned that an Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) issued by the Department of the Environment is not a permit, and approvals are still required from the requisite regulatory bodies for permits for various activities under the ECP.
Following the Government’s response, SEA thanked the Government of Belize for the quick response to the illegal dredging activities at Gladden Cayes.
“We take this opportunity to reiterate our request for the developer to conduct a full EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] before continuing with the project, keeping in mind his lack of adherence to the ECP [Environmental Compliance Plan],” the SEA stated.
It added that, “SEA’s Compliance Team of Rangers remains prepared to assist the regulatory agencies with monitoring of developments within and around the southern barrier reef complex, our regular surveillance and patrol area.”