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NCL EIA Consultations underway Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 30 January 2014 00:00

On Wednesday, January 22, approximately three hundred and twenty residents from villages and towns in the south gathered at the Independence High School auditorium to give their input at the public consultation on the Environmental Impact Assessment for Norwegian Cruise Line’s proposed cruise port on Harvest Caye. The EIA as it was presented to the public has since been withdrawn with the developer promising to amend it to better address the environmental issues which have been raised about it’s inadequacy.

 Representatives of NCL, including the Harvest Caye Project Director, Hugh Darley; brothers Carlo and Daniel Arguelles from International Environments Limited; and NCL environmental consultant, Jose Pepe Garcia faced the crowd at around 7:30 p.m. to field any and all questions about the project. They answered to all concerns which had to deal with the environmental impact that the development on Harvest Caye could possibly have. The Department of Environment was also present to witness and conduct the meeting.

 It is a well-known fact that there is a private tourism interest, particularly on the Placencia Peninsula that is directly opposed to bringing cruise tourism to the south. Even though the Government of Belize has, in concept, found the project to be an ideal opportunity for the country, that private interest continues its own campaign to resist it at every possible opportunity.

 At this public consultation, NCL development encountered this same opposition, but they also fielded questions from concerned citizens who raised important points that the EIA has failed to address properly. One particular matter was that the data and statistics presented were outdated, so it does not reflect a true picture of the possible socio-economic impacts of the project. After that 2 and half hour marathon of criticism of the EIA’s inadequacies, NCL’s Project Director committed to take all the comments and suggestions into consideration when amending the EIA that will be presented to the National Environmental Appraisal Committee.

 But while that is the commitment from NCL, the current EIA continues to receive commentary from different quarters. One particular organization called Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development has sent comments to the Department of Environment, which is still accepting comments and suggestions, and the PCSD has forwarded their concerns to the media.

 According to the PCSD, the EIA does not address issues involving the source of potable water for Harvest Caye. The fear is that the access that NCL will be given, and the volume needed, will negatively affect Independence Village, Placencia, and other communities in Southern Belize. Another major concern is the environmental impacts of the dredging which will have to be done to accommodate NCL floating pier concept. The EIA lists that the best method of getting rid of the 975,000 cubic meters of fill it will need to dredge is to dispose of it at a  site chosen in the sea with a depth of 20 feet or more. The organization says that the EIA glosses over the possible effects that this Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site would have on marine flora and fauna that uses the location as a habitat. The possible effects of siltation and coral bleaching is a major concern. The PCSD also criticized the EIA for downplaying the destruction which would take place to over 80% of Harvest Caye. The concern is that the mangrove and littoral forests on the island would be cleared to make room for the development, in an era where mangrove forests remain under repeated attack.

Reports to the media at this time is that the NEAC meeting, which was scheduled for Wednesday January 29, has been postponed to give NCL more time to make all the necessary adjustments to become better compliant with the environmental concerns. The overall feedback from those who attended is that the current EIA is “a disaster”.