Monday, June 17, 2024

The Battle for St. George’s Caye


There is a development which recently began in the north-western part of St. George’s Caye, which has residents and the village council of the small historic island in an uproar. Rumors of the proposed development surfaced on August 28, 2011 and by September 23rd, surveyors were on the island.

In a letter sent to residents of St. George’s Caye, dated September 29, 2011 Mr. John Searle, Village Council Chairman, spoke of the development. He stated, “From what I can gather, the GOB through the Physical Planning Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources has planned a development for the mangrove area in the back of St. George’s Caye. The proposed development consists of 31 lots and a marina. I first heard of it earlier this month and immediately went to see Minister Manuel Heredia, our Area Representative. He told me he was unaware of the plans and that he would support the St. George’s Caye Village Council and bring up the issue in Cabinet to find out more information. He also suggested that I write the Prime Minister to make him aware of the situation, which I did on September 7, 2011”.

On Monday October 3rd, Chairman Searle invited the media to go to St. George’s Caye to see firsthand the development which is being undertaken without consultation with the Village Council. Other than knowing very little about the development, and the GOB’s complete undermining of the St. George’s Village Council, Mr. Searle’s concerns span to the almost ten acres of essential mangrove ecosystem which will be cleared out.

This, according to Mr. Searle, will have ripple environmental impacts. The entire area which is proposed for the development should be protected under the Mangrove Protection Act. Furthermore, the mangroves serve as nesting grounds for a vast amount of marine life. Dredging in the area will also certainly affect the fishing in and around the Caye, stated Mr. Searle.
In an email correspondence with The San Pedro Sun, Mr. Searle pointed out the following:
• I need to state that the St. George’s Caye Village Council has no political axe to grind. We simply want to know what is going on in our island before it is a done deal.
• These “land grabs” have occurred in the past under the PUP and when we were only a Community Council and we had no legislation that backed us. So the Council pursued Village Status just so it would not happen again since the Village Council Act section 47 c states that the VC must be consulted prior to any dealings with lands in the village.
• Since mailing of letter to residents:
o Media went to St. George’s Caye on Monday and filmed the surveyors still working and they said they were working for GOB.

Following the airing of the story, Village Chair informed us that he had a telephone conversation with CEO of the Ministry of Natural Resources Ms. Beverly Castillo. She indicated that plans were being done under direction of the Minister Vega and unable to release the plans to the Village Council without his permission. She was also of the opinion that the Ministry did not need to consult w/VC until distribution of lands (47 b). According to reports from Channel 5, Ms. Castillo stated, “… the entire St. George’s Caye was built through the dredge and fill process and that the area isn’t part of any reserve or protected area. And while the Village Council was never informed or consulted, the Minister of Natural Resources is willing to hold discussions with the council based on their submissions for the distribution of lots.”

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