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Caye Caulker has survived several Category 5 hurricanes but will it survive the current building boom?

Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2019. 2:11 pm CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Wendy Auxillou: This morning beginning at 8:00 a.m., my concrete home which has survived a category 4 hurricane and countless tropical storms began vibrating crazily from strong ground tremors. Concrete walls were shaking like rag dolls while picture frames on the walls rattled. The vibrations were so strong I feared the foundations of my home would soon begin to crack and crumble. This didn’t just happen once, it happened again and again and again every minute or two for an entire day. In fact, it is happening now as I post this. The cause of the shocks and tremors? A construction site down the road driving piles into the ground.

How many more five-story concrete boxes that are so out of character on this tiny, laid-back island does Caye Caulker really need? Caye Caulker is gentrifying at an alarming rate so much so that locals will no longer be able to live here.

But my issue today is not even that, it’s with the driving of piles on what is a geologically-sensitive limestone island which sits atop one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world. To be clearer, the village itself sits on the roof of a very large underwater cave system. The cave system is a geological wonder. It is a national treasure. It should be protected at all costs. Instead, the Central Building Authority is handing out permits for 5-story buildings like candy. Every single one of them requires the driving of piles into the cave roof of a geological wonder that should be a nationally-preserved heritage site. How is this even environmentally sound?

As one of my friends exclaimed to me in astonishment: “That’s like driving piles above Rio Frio cave or any other cave on dry land. No one in their right mind would allow this to continue. Another aspect to consider is the additional collective weight of these new structures being supported by the roof of the cave.”

It’s not even like the Central Building Authority is ignorant of the fact that a cave system exists underneath Caye Caulker island. I called there to inquire whether a permit had been issued for this particular project that’s been crazily vibrating my home and was alarmed to hear the inspector nonchalantly state that they frequently get calls complaining about pile driving on top of the cave system. This isn’t the only project driving piles into the ground, apparently, there’s another one happening right now elsewhere on the island as well.

In order for one of these projects to get permit approval, the Department of the Environment must first give environmental clearance for these projects. Is the DoE sleeping at the wheel? Are we waiting for an environmental catastrophe and the collapse of our island before those that are in the position to do something actually do something?

Caye Caulker has survived countless Category 5 hurricanes, but will it survive the current building boom?

(The photo accompanying this essay is a photoshop of an actual photo by Mark Long which was taken inside the cave system underneath Caye Caulker. It was created to illustrate the likely effect of these piles.)


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