Features — 21 June 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Mega tourism investors want to “touch” Blue Hole

Investors’ proposed project is only 8 miles south of the majestic Belizean wonder

The Great Blue Hole has been nominated for the designation of the 8th Wonder of the World, and environmental activists in Belize want to ensure that a multi-million-dollar, mega-tourism project by Puerto Azul Belize Limited—but which investors want to set up only 8 miles south of this majestic Belizean wonder, at the Lighthouse Reef Atoll—does not see the light of day.

The tentative project duration is December 2013–December 2017. Amandala was told that the matter has been raised at the Cabinet level; however, Government has not yet made any of that information public.

The directors for the company are Italians Domenico Giannini & Fabio Nicola La Rosa, members of the management team named for another Puerto Azul project proposed for the Dominican Republic.

The legal address of the Belize company is listed as Barrow & Williams Law Firm, the Prime Minister’s law firm.

Like Norwegian Cruise Line’s Crawl Caye proposal, which was recently turned down by Cabinet, the promise is for a major tourism development that would bring business and jobs to Belize.

The development proposal for Puerto Azul – exclusive resort, hotel, gulf, villas and spa, on Northern Two Caye (960 acres) and Sandbore Caye (10 acres), is dated April 23, 2013. It calls for accommodations for 1,000 guests and 2,000 employees. Proposed amenities include hotels, shopping centers, restaurants and bars, a golf club house, spa, airstrip and marina. The proposal also calls for an underwater lab.

Whereas the economic aspects of the proposal seem to meet some of the essential criteria the Government uses to decide on whether an investment proposal is good for Belize, Roberto Pott, Belize Coordinator for Healthy Reefs for Healthy People, has told our newspaper that the project could seriously compromise a vital part of Belize’s reef ecosystem – vital because it is in the proximity of one of the last spawning grounds of the endangered Nassau Grouper, and one of the two cayes proposed for the development is an important mangrove island, which supports a nursery for Belize’s fisheries, said Pott.

One concern is that the proposal calls for dredging of the mangrove island. According to the proposal, “Modification will be made to the shoreline on Northern Two Cayes. As well, dredging and land filling will be a part of the construction phase of this project.”

Pott said that the area has five islands, and only two of them, Northern Two and Long Caye, are mangrove islands. We note that mangroves, apart from helping to sustain the fisheries resources, mitigate the impact of hurricanes.

The plan has attached two letters dated April 29, 2013 and May 3, 2013, written to Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria, requesting facilitation for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be done. However, Alegria told us today that nothing is yet in the works.

Cabinet rejected the Crawl Caye cruise port proposal on environmental grounds, since the caye – as a part of the Great Belize Barrier Reef – is part of a World Heritage Site, which places a limit on the scale of development that can be done at the location. Government has subsequently indicated that an alternative site for the Crawl Caye project could be considered.

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