Posted: Monday, August 26, 2019. 11:47 am CST.
By BBN Staff: It began with a Facebook movement, Santa Elena resident, Luz Munoz posted to her Facebook page calling on all residents to be aware of the condition of the Macal River.
That post went viral and sparked a discussion between San Ignacio and Santa Elena residents about how to save the Macal River.
Tour Guide instructor, Javier Gutierrez then organized a 1st meeting which was held on Friday, August 23 at Hode’s Place.
Over 100 attendees gathered at Hode’s to discuss the issues affecting the river and the strategy to save it.
Gutierrez opened the meeting and then a poem written by Delmer Tzib entitled ‘ I will defend you Macal River’ was read.
Among the attendees were Mayor of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, Earl Trapp, Cayo Northeast Area Representative, Orlando Habet, Belizean investor and columnist, Richard Harrison, Environmentalist, Luz Hunter, Activist Kimo Joli and representatives from OCEANA,Becol and La Ruta Maya Belize River challenge.
Gutierrez noted that the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and the Department of the Environment (DOE) expressed their full support for the initiative.
Activist Joli wore his shirt with the caption ‘Damn the Dam’ and gave his speech on previous advice given to relevant authorities before the construction of the dam in Cayo.
Richard Harrison addressed the attendees and said that money is allotted to central and local Government and further asked the Mayor and Area representative to allot money to address environmental issues such as these.
Harrison encouraged the local authorities to review their budgets and find projects that are not so urgent to transfer the funding to more important issues affecting the environment.
Resident Charlie Avella encouraged all attendees to continue to raise awareness on the issue and to join in partnerships with everyone.
He emphasized the importance of working with all residents, churches, local and central government and Nongovernmental organizations to protect our natural resources.
A representative of the National Student Union of Belize (NSUB) reiterated the importance of protecting the environment and pledged to work in partnership to save the Macal River.
Luis Garcia proposed that a group be formed specifically to take care of the river, eg. Riverkeepers.
Habet explained that he is concerned that the Government only considers hurricanes to be natural disasters but the killing of the Macal River is a disaster as well as the ongoing drought affecting crops.
Habet also said that due to the pollution, people bathing in the river suffer from severe itch.
Mayor Trapp pledged full support to the initiative and explained about a new filtration system to divert dirty water from main drains from flowing into the river.
Trapp said that the finances will be approved within 6 months for a proper drainage system.
He also shared that water testing of the Macal River was done and confirmed that the water is contaminated.
Additional testing is being done to determine where the contamination is coming from.
Once the information is received, it will be made public via a town meeting.
The council will also be engaging in an awareness campaign regarding the disposal of garbage.
Councilor Mark O’Brien called on all attendees to take action now to Save the Macal River and encouraged the group to find working strategies.
By the end of the meeting, a group of concerned residents pledged to take up the mantle and lead this initiative. The group is being led by Javier Gutierrez .
They were offered to use the Town Council’s conference room for their next meeting on Thursday, August 29, 2019, at 7 pm.
All are invited to attend.
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