The proposed project at Northern 2 Caye in the Lighthouse Atoll known as Puerto Azul has caught the attention of environmentalists who have raised alarm bells about both the ecological and economic implications of a project on a scale that is as grand as proposed.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow and other Government officials who have spoken on the project have made clear that nothing has been presented that they can consider, much less agree to, though plans for fact finding ahead of an environmental impact assessment are underway.
However, the developers have also made a big splash both internationally and locally.
This past weekend, several local journalists were flown out to the area to have a look for themselves.
Amanda Acosta, Executive Director of the Belize Audubon Society which co-manages the two protected sanctuaries in the Atoll – the Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye – says that before anything in writing is placed before Government, they want to be a part of the evaluation.
“I think it is still speculation as to what is going on. We have had the assurance from him that there will be a process of feasibility of looking at the project and what we have done is, we have written to Minister Hulse, who we know traditionally has been at the head of these sub-committees, asking him that if he needs our help, we are more than willing to help in the assessments of this site from the ecological point of view, but we are also asking as to the methodologies that will be used. So, we are well aware of the process; the general Belizean wants to know the full process of what is happening. So, yes, it is a degree of comfort, but also, we want to informed on the process”.
Acosta notes that there has already been some development in the area. Even a downscaled version of the project, she says, may still face some hurdles.
Amanda Acosta: “I think that whatever project is determined, they need to do the feasibility, they need to look at the realities of the site. Yesterday, there was a resort out there and I think, perhaps you could do more. There is land available on that island, but it has to be considered within the confines of what is there and what kind of damage it will impact. I think I can’t speak towards other NGOs and they would be satisfied with that, but I think that from our RND we want to see something responsible that won’t destroy the entire island on the process. But if they downscale, and…there is logistical issues on the island and it is a 25 minutes flight, but it is a two hour boat ride on a good day. On a bad day, it is up to 4-5 hours. So, the logistic of feet is something to be considered in that whole factor, evacuation routes, emergency,etc. However, like I said, it really has to be shown that the other environmental and the socio-economic factors like the fishing industry in that atoll also needs to be considered”.