Green Tropics Limited, the new sugar company which plans to produce 128,000 tons of sugar using lands in the Cayo District, appears to have angered the environmentalists in Belize by digging a large trench to bring fresh water from the Belize River its lands near More Tomorrow.
The company says it has identified underground aquifers to supply most of the water it will be needing for irrigation and its factory, but it will have to supplement this water supply by taking some from the river.
Waste water will be recycled using sludge ponds to retrieve and re-direct useful solids back into the cane fields. The company has been pushing because it has a tight deadline for the start-up of production.
But the Government of Belize has issued a stop order on the digging of the irrigation trench and is threatening to slap Green Tropics Limited with a substantial fine for disturbing the landscape, a jaguar habitat, without prior permission. The trench was indeed part of the company’s environmental impact assessment proposal, but the government has been slow in its decision to approve or disapprove.
The company is still free to proceed with its plan to extract water from its underground aquifers, but for now, the plan for the trench is dead, or appears to be dead. The Government is opposed to an open trench in the countryside and wants the water ditch filled in.
The Government is probably right from an aesthetic point of view, but there is much more than aesthetics to be considered here. Green Tropics is investing a lot of money in this project, and the water from the river is an important component of its plan.
Belize needs this investment because it needs to build its export base and it needs the jobs which the new sugar factory has to offer. This is a bird in the hand, and it’s worth two in the bush!
Belize should be willing to work with Green Tropics to see how it can help the company meet its water needs.
Is it feasible to run a line of large diameter pipes in the trench which has already been dug, and then covering it up? A pump house on the riverbank could send the water on its way to the factory site. This is going to be an added cost to the project, but one which may be managable.
The important thing here is not to burden Green Tropics with any more delays, but to encourage the company to go as fast and as far as it can with some official help.