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Thousands Left Jobless Over Weekend

The office of Ambergris Today received phone calls about several construction sites being shut down during the weekend; we contacted the San Pedro Local Building Authority to clear out this issue and Mr. Omar Mitchell, engineer of the SPLBA gave us an account of what occurred.

According to Mr. Mitchell, Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. contacted Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega to dispatch a team, from his Ministry of Environment and Lands, to the island to crack down on developers dredging without permits. But the Department of Environment went beyond to what they were assigned to do and stopped over 28 construction sites leaving thousands jobless.

“Why weren’t these issues of cutting down mangroves and other developments not addressed before elections? Why did the DOE have to wait a few days after elections to come and cease construction at random?” commented Mr. Mitchell.

According to Mr. Mitchell, many a times the Department of Environment has been invited to attend meetings with the SPLBA and not once has any representative attended a meeting or sat down to discuss how plans of a building should be addressed with concern for the environment.

“The only ones authorized to stop any construction in the island is the SPLBA,” commented Mr. Mitchell. “I strongly believe that different government departments should work hand in hand with us for the betterment of the island so as to find a comprehensive solution to these affecting problems and not take matters in their own hands and do what they want, without proper consultation with us.”

In an interview with Love FM, Hon. Manuel Heredia stated that the selling of the cayes behind San Pedro and the cutting down of mangroves in these islands which are the home of various species of birds, should have been put on hold until proper investigation has been done into why these islands have been sold as it will have a negative effect on the tourism industry.

“To me this was very unfair to do; something that is not being done the right way and we should sit down and discuss but you cannot be stopping developers; what kind of message would we be sending,” stated Hon. Heredia. “I spoke to only a few developers doing construction and they said that they have to work 2-3 weeks before they can resume and I spoke to my prime minister and he immediately agreed that the people should be allowed to proceed.”

Chief Environmental Officer, Ismael Fabro said it was five projects that were given verbal cessation orders. He said that on Friday and Saturday officers from the enforcement and compliance monitoring unit were out on San Pedro doing checks on certain projects and responding to reports of indiscriminate mangrove clearance in the area as requested by Hon. Heredia. It was then that the officers came across five projects that were not in compliance with the department of the environment.

According to Heredia, all projects that were halted at the end of last week resumed on Monday, February 18 with the exception of the two where mangrove removal was involved. Heredia told us that based on his information; the department of the environment stopped the progress of all projects in the island because according to them a proper E-I-A had not been done.

Fabro said that until Monday afternoon, two of the projects had been given the nod to continue. Two other projects are being investigated while no representative for the fifth project has visited the department of the environment in Belmopan. “The Town Council is a planning authority, they can approve certain development plans but they cannot give environmental clearance,” commented Fabro. “Those projects still have to come to the department for environmental clearance.”

According the SPLBA the DOE has been invited to meetings so as to address environmental clearance in development plans but they have never showed up and according to Mr. Fabro, Chief Environmental Officer, the Building Authority can approve a plan but not give the environmental clearance. Regardless to who does what and what one has to do, both the SPLBA and the DOE along with elected officials should come together to find a comprehensive solution for this matter.

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