Inappropriate resort developments can destroy marine ecosystems, deplete groundwater, cut off beach access, and displace traditional communities, while contributing little to the local economy.

The 3,000 residents of the Placencia Peninsula support themselves with small-scale tourist businesses and the bounty of the sea. Community members have teamed up with the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) to challenge a massive resort development that promises little benefit for local residents.

U.S.-owned resort developer Ara Macao, Ltd. proposes to increase the population of Placencia Peninsula FIVE-FOLD by constructing a gated resort community with a marina, golf courses, poolside bars and restaurants, a casino, night club, beach condominiums, villas, and residential golf course homes. Local residents fear the development would deplete the groundwater, destroy ecosystems, and cut off beach access for local residents, such as these children in Seine Bight Village.

BELPO Attorney Antoinette Moore asked a Belizean court to review the decision to allow Ara Macao to go forward. ELAW partner Candy Gonzalez sits on Belize’s National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC), where in recent months she has considered several proposals for these large-scale developments.

"Ara Macao and other similar projects will ruin Belize`s pristine coastline," says Gonzalez. "This style of development enriches a few foreign investors and destroys our greatest assets – our natural resources."

ELAW Advocate, Spring 2007