2nd public consultation held on the Waterloo project
Belize City, Thursday. September 23, 2021 – A second round of consultations took place on Thursday last week to address a range of concerns voiced by members of the public, several NGOs and even Belize Water Services Ltd. regarding the potential environmental impact of the proposed Waterloo project, which would include the expansion of the Port of Belize Ltd. facilities. and the construction of a cruise ship terminal there. At the request of the National Environmental Assessment Committee (NEAC), the Port of Belize Ltd. organized the discussion following the submission of an addendum to its original Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) which it believes offers a safer alternative to the original plan. their disposal was massive amounts of material that would be dug up during their dredging operation.
In presenting the project and the addendum to the original ESIA, Allan Herrera, from Nextera Environmental and Engineering Consultancy, described various amenities, structures and facilities that would be created as a result of the project. These include “logistics areas for parking / land transport, areas for chartered boats, an administrative building, a center of activities and cruise operations, a new landscaped boulevard connecting the main tourist village at Jane Usher Boulevard, with a separate road entrance for the tourist village and freight. area, an upgrade of Jane Usher Boulevard to a two-lane paved road with improved drainage and supporting structures, ancillary equipment and facilities.
However, many of those in attendance envisioned, not the picturesque layout that Herrera tried to portray, but the potential deterioration of the entire area due to the environmental disturbance that can be caused by the large-scale dredging that is expected to be done. In the region. These concerns included a number of residents of the Jane Usher and Port Loyola areas. Their concerns were voiced during the first round of public consultations and surfaced again during the question-and-answer portion of the session. Dionne Chamberlain of the Chamberlain Consulting Group attempted to address some of these concerns and told residents that “when an improvement in a large infrastructure project like this occurs, it automatically improves the value of your property.” . She also said that jobs would be created and that the project “would create a lot of infrastructure, Jane Usher Boulevard being paved up to the highway”. She also said that “no one in Port Loyola will be asked to cede land”. “In fact, all of the land, even the land that the BWS crosses, is owned by the Port of Belize Limited, so it’s all private land. We have enough land and enough investment capital to put this project on the ground immediately, ”she added.
The consultants also attempted to allay concerns expressed by Belize Water Services Limited, which has publicly stated that the offshore dumping of dredged material associated with the project will affect their natural mangrove water treatment ponds. Allan Herrera, in his presentation, said, pointing to a diagram prepared by his company, that “when placing the material, there will be no chance that sediment can leave this area because of the membrane. geotextile and silk. curtain which will envelop this whole area…. Also… the port area itself, the jetties and the mooring area and the commercial areas, these will consume the best part of the dredged spills. It is only the part that cannot be used commercially or for construction that will need to be disposed of in areas near shore.
Despite these assurances, several public figures who connected virtually, mentioned some of the effects the project could have on Belize’s marine ecosystems. The President of the Federation of Belize Cruise Tourism Associations (FECTAB), Mr. Tom Greenwood, raised the question that the soil that will be dumped during the project could be contaminated and went so far as to ask the consultants not to “insult the intelligence of the Belizean people.
In response, consultant Luis Muñoz of Piedroba Consulting Group attempted to assure those present that “there is no such contaminant present in the soil that will be dredged as part of this project”. He said that “all the soil that will be dredged as part of this project is virgin material.”
Oceana’s Vice-President in Belize, Janelle Chanona, also opened a debate with Muñoz on whether the dredged material would be damaging to Belize’s marine resources. In addition, Chanona asked if those involved in the project have taken into consideration that the ocean disposal will be in the Caribbean Sea.
Muñoz replied, “I object to being called an offshore area first…. It is a part of the Belize City Lagoon.
Allan Herrera then intervened to confirm that since Belize only has ties to one sea, the Caribbean Sea, there is no question that spills will occur in the Caribbean Sea.
At the start of the consultations, the head table gave a detailed presentation of the stages of the project. The consultants said the project had not yet been environmentally cleared, pending the green light from NEAC and the Department of the Environment (DOE). Luis Muñoz confirmed that the project will not proceed with any construction activity until it receives approval from the GoB.