The Great Belize Barrier Reef: No to a luxury resort!
Actor Ted Danson and friends working to save The Great Belize Barrier Reef
In media, as it life, sometimes when it rains it pours…
After posting about the recent Travel Pulse article on Belize that we liked (Belize’s Charm Is Difficult to Describe But Easily Experienced November 21), another piece, this time in the Huffington Post, was brought to our attention.
And, as this one has Cheers television star and well known environmental activist Ted Danson sharing the byline with Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless, our ears picked up.
Mr Danson has graced our pages before, largely as a board member of Oceana and as a particular friend of Belize who has been selflessly instrumental in helping with things like banning the destructive practices of commercial bottom trawling and oil drilling on the Belize Great Barrier Reef.
And, although we like to post mostly good news on the blog, we feel it’s only proper to convey Mr Danson’s, Oceana’s and a growing number of other groups and individuals’ concerns here.
The November 21 Huff Post article, “A Luxury Resort Threatens Belize’s Mesoamerican Reef”, begins with a description of the many wonders of the world’s second largest barrier reef, it’s importance environmentally and economically, and its inherent fragility.
The authors then go on to warn; “But two of the islands that make up this special place could soon be dredged and paved to make way for race cars, golfers, and a tarmac.”
One area of concern is Lighthouse Reef, definitely one of the prettiest and most environmentally sensitive parts of the reef that is now under threat by a massive luxury resort project melodically named Puerto Azul (Blue Port).
We’ll let Messrs Danson and Sharpless describe it:
“Proposed by Italian businessman Domenico Giannini, president of Puerto Azul Exclusive Resorts & Hotels, the luxury resort would host 1,000 guests and 2,000 workers. It would include underwater suites, a golf course, an amusement park, a super-yacht marina, a submarine-base, hospital, and a Formula One racetrack. To transport guests to the site, the developers are also planning to build a 2-mile long international airport landing strip on the coral reef itself -- blasting away marine habitat, dredging sea grass beds, and hammering pilings and concrete into the reef. And this airport would be even larger than the country's existing international airport near Belize City. All of this construction lies within the immediate vicinity of the Great Blue Hole, a nationally protected area and World Heritage Site.”
The article notes that although Belizeans welcome eco tourism as the mainstay of Belize’s economy, opposition against the project is widespread throughout the country Of course, Puerto Azul is extremely popular with those very few who will reap huge financial benefits from it.
That’s a group that definitely doesn’t include manatees, sea turtles, whale sharks, dolphins, or any marine life, nor the subsistence fisherfolk, tour guides and others who have been coexisting with the reef for years, nor the regular, “We came here to experience the beauty, not play golf” visitors to Belize.
Having spent many happy hours on and around Lighthouse Reef, we can confirm that it’s one of the most stunning, naturally spectacular places on earth. And having dove around it over the course of years, we can see how fragile it and the surrounding reefs are. Somehow, golf courses, a Formula One race track (!?) and a super yacht marina seem as out of place as, well, a racetrack on a tranquil, pristine bit of paradise.
It’s not that we have anything against rich people’s toys and amusements - there just seems to be a proper time and place for everything. Golf is a healthy, relaxing pastime, and NASCAR, for example, provides great entertainment for millions of regular folks. But not in a pristine, delicate world heritage area.
This is view Oceana, the world’s largest NGO focussed on protecting the world’s oceans, seems to agree with, as the article states;
“If such a project is to go forward, it must be built elsewhere, at a site that does not threaten the health of protected ocean life and World Heritage sites.”
Fair enough, one would think.
The article also warns against the possibility of oil drilling being conducted on the reef - another case of probably the worse place in the world for such activity that benefits a chosen few at the expense of so many, and with risks that are incalculable.
And Oceana isn’t then only group concerned. The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), Belize Audubon Society, World Wildlife Fund, and Healthy Reefs have joined others in opposition to the Puerto Azul Project.
So what to do about it? The article closes with:
“Oceana is campaigning to protect the Mesoamerican reef from offshore oil drilling and reckless development, including Puerto Azul. Join us to help preserve the lifeblood of the Belizean economy and one of the most unique ocean ecosystems on the planet.”
Check them out at:
And better yet, visit Belize’s Great Barrier Reef with its many wonders including Jacques Cousteau’s favourite Great Blue Hole, Laughing Bird Caye and the still lovely Lighthouse Reef and see for yourself why so many people the world over want to see this extraordinary example of nature’s handiwork protected. Chaa Creek’s “Rainforest to Reef” all-inclusive Belize vacations, for example, are an excellent way to take in all the things that make Belize such an incredibly beautiful, tranquil place that’s worth our attention and care.
We’ll continue to monitor the situation and any developments regarding Puerto Azul (which maybe should be more properly named Puerto “Oro", for gold) and remain optimistic that local and global action will see common sense prevail.