Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Informative session in San Pedro discusses World Bank project aimed at improving infrastructure planning on the island


An information session on a World Bank project, crucial for the future of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, was held on Monday, May 20th, at the San Pedro Lions Den. The ‘Blue Cities and Beyond’ Project aims to enhance access to the island’s climate-resilient and sustainable water and sanitation services. The presenters also outlined that the project will bolster the island’s and country’s management capacity for sustainable development of the blue economy.
The session, attended by several stakeholders from the tourism industry and other islanders, commenced at 6 PM. The Honourable Andre Perez, the area representative and minister of the Blue Economy and Disaster Risk Management, expressed his gratitude to the attendees and highlighted their crucial role in the project’s success. He emphasized that the project will encompass policy and capacity-building interventions nationwide, primarily focusing on infrastructure investment on the island.
Deputy Commissioner of Lands and Surveys Alfred Cal reassured the audience about the meticulous planning and use of advanced geospatial tools for the new development’s Blue Economy and marine sector. This mapping tool will facilitate the potential and actual project locations and help identify the risks and impacts of natural resources. Cal emphasized that with this World Bank project, they aim to eliminate past harmful practices and ensure a confident and secure future using this technology. Kevin Gutierrez, Principal Surveyor at the Ministry of Natural Resources, also spoke on this line, assuring the audience that they will ensure land is used appropriately, further instilling confidence in the project’s planning and execution.
The public meeting also covered the country’s Blue Economy sector. The Director of the Blue Economy Unit, Felicia Cruz, led this presentation. She stated that areas like Ambergris Caye are vulnerable because of exposure to the elements, including hurricanes and other natural disasters. While the town south of the island has been developing, according to her, the new climate-resilient infrastructure has been modeled to protect the fragile marine economy and the island municipality. She noted that the ministry would engage all stakeholders on Ambergris Caye during the project and listen to their suggestions to achieve its goals.
The Belize Water Services Limited representatives said their partnership in this project is to help develop a water, sanitation, and waste management system for northern Ambergris Caye. Their collaboration will also involve expanding their services in areas north of the island and the other regions south of the island, where new housing projects are occurring. However, when this project begins, they will prioritize starting it in the island’s northern part. Northern Ambergris Caye has recently grown and needs water and wastewater treatment services.
According to information from the World Bank (https://shorturl.at/SnPUb), the project will cost $21.7 million. It will be implemented in Belize, with the scope of infrastructure investments covering Belize City, Ambergris Caye, and Placencia. Additional information on the project suggests that Belize is highly vulnerable to external economic shocks and adverse impacts of climate change that cause tremendous damage to key sectors, including tourism. As such, infrastructure investments in Ambergris Caye and Placencia have not kept up with the demand, which has contributed to wastewater leakage into coastal areas, coastal erosion, sargassum blooms, and increased pressures on public water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management services. However, the project interventions are expected to significantly reduce land and marine pollution, offering an optimistic future for the environment and the community.

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