Friday, July 12, 2024

Road and bridge proposal to connect Ambergris Caye with Mexico concerns environmentalists

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After it was revealed by Prime Minister Honourable John Briceño that there is a proposal to connect Ambergris Caye with the Mexican Yucatan peninsula via a bridge, environmentalists have sounded the alarm of its negative impact could cause to that part of the island. With a bridge, a road will be a must, and this development means that the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve in the area could be in jeopardy. Its unique wildlife face displacement, and sea turtle nesting areas could become a thing of the past.

In an interview with the media, the prime minister said that the project would have minimal impact on the environment. However, experts believe it could be catastrophic for the natural components within the Bacalar Chico marine protected area, which is a designated World Heritage Site, and any development can compromise the reserve. This remote and wild area of north Ambergris Caye is home to jaguars, deer, wild pigs, pumas, ocelots, foxes, and other species of animals.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), some level of clearance of forest will need to take place to construct the road. This would see large areas of mangroves removed, and an interconnected wetland system disturbed. In addition, potential pollutants and sedimentation can lead to erosion and eventually affect marine life and the barrier reef. According to Nadia Bood from WWF, one delicate species of wildlife are manatees. They use the mangrove areas for nursing, feeding, and as a habitat. The effort to conserve such World Heritage Site areas was the same campaign that rid the barrier reef from the endangered list. Environmentalists ask the government to look closer at the proposal and diligently research and consult with the community.

Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development also voiced their disapproval of the proposed project. They believe that a road through this protected area could threaten the natural assets and the status of the reserve. With such an enormous infrastructural project to attract more tourism, some believe it could drive away businesses that Ambergris Caye depends on.

The former manager of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Miguel Alamilla, is also concerned about this project. As a marine biologist, he is worried about the turtle nesting sites, which are already in danger. Every year, the Ambergris Caye Marine Turtle Program, which he helped create, monitors the nesting season that runs from May through November, which sees between 90 to over 100 sea turtle nests. The most common species are the hawksbill, loggerhead, and green turtle. Alamilla shared that these nesting sites are in constant threat from human activity. There is no road in this area of the island, and people who visit it during weekends, mostly, drive on the beach. They sometimes go on top of turtle nests threatening the survival of the eggs and hatchlings. Alamilla believes that if such a project takes place, it will significantly impact the area’s sea turtle nesting grounds and other marine life.

After the announcement of the proposed development, no word from the Office of the Prime Minister has followed. When he shared the proposal on October 13th, he reportedly suggested that in the future, you may be able to drive from Cancun, Mexico, to Ambergris Caye and vice-versa. According to Prime Minister Briceño, the road and bridge mean that the Riviera Maya would start in Cancun and end in Ambergris Caye.

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