Sunday, July 21, 2024

No SargaBlocks for construction in San Pedro


Every year, the influx of the seaweed known as Sargassum brings challenges to the tourism industry in Belize, particularly San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, one of the country’s leading destinations. With the increasing threat to the beaches and coasts, the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) had considered a project to turn the seaweed into construction blocks. The project known as SargaBlocks has reportedly been done in parts of Mexico, and in April of this year, the plans to work with a Mexican company were well in advance. However, with the decrease in the seaweed’s presence, the SPTC has now walked away from such a venture, and the SargaBlocks idea was abandoned.
The SargaBlocks company, owned by Mexican entrepreneur Omar Vasquez, makes construction blocks from Sargassum and visited Belize several times to offer his services to tackle the problem. Turning Sargassum into construction blocks was considered the last resort to control the situation on Ambergris Caye’s beaches. Seafront hotels and restaurants were being heavily affected by the invasion of the brown algae, which releases a strong odor when it rots.
The SPTC had hired additional sanitation personnel to scoop the Sargassum off the beaches without much success. The SargaBlock idea was to help with the issue significantly and would aid with the building materials for food booths at the central park. The food booths are currently being built with concrete blocks instead of SargaBlocks. At first, there were no details on changing from Sargassum to concrete blocks. Mayor Gualberto ‘Wally’ Nuñez explained that the project would not be feasible as there would be less Sargassum. “When we had that plan initially, it seemed like an excellent idea, but the issue is that we would have needed so much Sargassum to build the number of blocks needed for the construction project,” said Nuñez. “Probably, we would have had to import Sargassum to meet the demand. This was going to be contrary to what we wanted.”
The seaweed plague is expected to be back in the upcoming months. The Mayor said they will continue tackling it with their sanitation department and look forward to the community’s involvement as well. According to him, his administration has been spending between $5,000 and $10,000 weekly to remove the heavy influx of Sargassum from the eastern beaches in the downtown area.
Every year, the challenge is more significant as the amount of seaweed drifting on the Caribbean Sea continues to increase. Sargassum has been a bane to the Caribbean since 2011, and according to the experts, the improper use of industrial waste disposal and climate change may worsen the situation with the drifting seaweed. In the meantime, the Government of Belize continues to explore the possibility of creating a biomass facility in the country to produce energy from Sargassum. If this project is successful, such a facility will be considered the first in the region.

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