Public Consultation for the Saca Chispas Promenade Held

Friday, July 15th, 2011

On Tuesday June 28th, a Public Consultation for the Saca Chispas Promenade and Water Taxi Terminal was held at the San Pedro Lion’s Den. The presentation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for this project to the major stakeholders was the main purpose of the consultation.

The meeting was well attended by over 50 concerned residents and stakeholders. Presentations were made on the EIA process, defining each step that leads to the approval of any project which is allowed to go through within the country of Belize. Presenters included representatives from the Department of the Environment from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, the developer and the engineer of the project as well.

The Environmental Protection Act requires that any project or activity which may have significant impact on the environment may be required to carry out an EIA and following the rules as set out in the EIA Regulations.
An EIA is effective in: being a planning tool – for promoting environmental sound development practices; examining – both the adverse and beneficial environmental consequences of a project design; and ensuring the development of mitigation measures – to address the environmental consequences during project development.

The project or undertaking may be granted an environmental clearance by the department subject to the signing of an Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP), other conditions set forth by the Department, and the payment of an environmental monitoring fee.

The recommendation for the go ahead is made by a body known as the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC). NEAC is comprised of: The Chief Environmental Officer, Director of Health Services, Chief Engineer, Chief Forest Officer, Fisheries Administrator, Chief Meteorologist, Director of Geology and Petroleum, Coastal Zone/Marine Resources Manager, Human Development or Social officer, Tertiary Level Institution Rep, Two Non Governmental Organization (NGO)/Private Sector Reps and the Commissioner of Lands.

The waterfront development’s goal is to create a new tourism destination within San Pedro, consolidate the four water taxi operator terminals into one manageable and efficient port, to replace and improve existing infrastructure on the water and at the water’s edge.

The project site includes public land and shoreline waters along the lagoon waterfront west of Angel Coral Street to the back side of the island, including the back street. The Saca Chispas Project will consist of the reclamation, rehabilitation, and beautification of the lagoon waterfront; the design/construction of a promenade with pedestrian walkway, multiple leasable structures and boat launches; replacement of the local boat slips and piers; a new municipal water taxi terminal for domestic and international water taxi services; the relocation and rehabilitation of the Saca Chispas event field.

The development will compose of water taxi terminals with ticketing booth and Customs/Immigration Area; enhancing the shorelines by the replacing the existing piers and structures and constructing a boardwalk and promenade with illumination, landscape and seating arrangements.

 

The project would entail construction activities, dredging activities and transportation impacts. Dredging in the lagoon area would be needed to reach bed rock, maintaining the sea floor to a level that would allow the free flow of traffic and so forth. The material produced from this dredging would not be of the quality needed for the project, therefore it had been suggested that the flow of the material be directed to the San Mateo Sub Division providing much needed landfill for residents in that area. A second suggestion for the material would be the creation of an artificial island in the back of the island.

The project would maintain environmental factors native to the island, with vegetation such as coconut and varied palm and palmetto trees species, sea grape, sea almond, Caribbean pine, red mangrove and so forth. It would also create employment opportunities such as the hiring of people from the immediate area in the area of tourist information, gift shops, maintenance, security, arts and crafts etc.

With a very beautiful concept presented, the attendees were allowed two questions for a period of about 30 minutes. As there seemed to be no opposition to the project, individuals present made suggestions on safeguarding the general public as well as ways of improving the project.

The plan was produced based on consultation with the Ministry of Tourism and the stakeholders. After this public presentation, the next step goes to NEAC who has recommended that the project be granted environmental clearance, contingent on the completed ECP currently being worked on by the developer. Key to the recommended environmental clearance is that the developer conducts a thorough analysis of the dredge spoils from the project for heavy metals persistent regarding pollutions. This will assist in determining the use of the spoils after dredging. The San Pedro Sun has received information form the DOE that the Saca Chispas project will be granted environmental clearance to commence within the next month. Funding for the completion of this project was secured through a loan from the Inter Development Bank (IDB) by the country of Belize, to the tune of BzeM$30 from which, approximately BzeM$6.5is specifically geared towards this project. The loan will be paid by the Government of Belize through a 20 year period at an approximate interest rate of 4-5%. Maintenance and managing of the project will be the sole responsibility of the San Pedro Town Council.

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