Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Illegally constructed road and wooden bridges found inside Belize National Parks

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The Frіеndѕ fоr Соnѕеrvаtіоn and Dеvеlopmеnt (FСD) are considered the guardians of the Chiquibul National Park in the Cayo District in western Belize. For years, they have monitored the continuous encroachment of Guatemalan nationals, bringing it to the government’s attention. Recent reports reveal an illegally constructed road inside the Belize national parks and bridges in the nearby Columbia Forest Reserve. The Ministry of National Defense and Border Security received the findings and is investigating as these activities violate Belize’s sovereignty.The illegal road, which starts from the Guatemalan village of El Naranjon in the municipality of Dolores, Peten, and stretches about 1.4 kilometers inside Belizean territory, was spotted on February 22nd during an aerial survey conducted by FCD. FCD believes this road is to access water to support the expansion of cattle ranching activity on the Guatemalan side and suggested increasing patrols by the Belize Defense Force (BDF) to deter these activities. FCD Executive Director Rafael Manzanero stated that “this illegal road construction is a blatant violation of Belizean sovereignty and a serious threat to the Chiquibul National Park. We are working closely with the BDF to address this situation.”
BDF General Brigadier Azariel Loria said they have taken measures to address this issue. “We have patrols there now,” said General Loria. “We have also sent that information to the Ministry of National Defense and Border Security, and we are waiting for verification from the office of the Organization of American States.” Loria also added that Guatemalan nationals planned to subdivide some land into lots along this road.
The other findings reported on March 21st include a second road leading south into the Columbia Forest Reserve in the Toledo District south of Cayo. This second road includes two wooden bridges extending over 4 kilometers inside Belize territory. The FCD report pointed out that these are used for illegal timber extraction in the forest reserve. The activity appears to have occurred for many years, but this recent finding shows it is more organized now. During a recent aerial survey, FCD observed human activity with several timbers stacked up. These illicit activities are reportedly close to the Machaquilha Conservation Post, adjacent to the Belize/Guatemala border.
Although FCD has no co-management jurisdiction in the Columbia Forest Reserve, they recommend that the relevant authorities conduct further investigation to assess the impacts these activities have caused and put together an action plan to address this problem.

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