Channel 5 News and Channel 7 News carry stories today indicating that significant numbers of Guatemalan’s are illegally panning for gold in the Ceibo Chico region of the southern Chiquibul. Raphael Manzanero, the Executive Director of Friends for Conservation and Development is obviously very concerned about the environmental damage that is resulting from the illegal panning and settlement. FCD have been monitoring the situation since last October but with few resources and a delicate political problem there is little they can do other than try and gain support for action through the media.
Legal mineral extraction licenses in these remote regions of the Chiquibul National Park will inevitably open a ‘back door’ for poor Guatemalan’s to enter Belize and pan illegally for gold. Belize needs to think very carefully about issuing mineral extraction licenses in environmentally sensitive areas without also providing effective environmental oversight and security enforcement. The potential for localized environmental damage is dwarfed by the impact that it could have on the fresh water supplies that flow from the Ceibo Chico into the Chiquibul River to Guatemala and back into Belize again via the Mopan River.
Nuture Belize has for some time been advocating along with FCD that more boots are needed on the ground in order to monitor, protect and conserve the Chiquibul Forest. The establishment of the South Chiquibul Joint Enforcement Unit at Ceibo Chico is a start but without effective manpower it will be impossible to police this remote and challenging region of Belize.
The full story can be read on the Channel 5 News web site by clicking here
The story can also be read at Channel / News by clicking here