Research Proposal


“Protecting Valuable Urban Ecological Space: Planning for Sustainable Urban Development in the Krooman Lagoon Community, Belize City, Belize"
Figure 1 Images showing the boundaries of the Krooman Reserve and adjacent communities
Figure 1 Images showing the boundaries of the Krooman Reserve and adjacent communities


Belize is identified regionally as one of the countries undergoing rapid urbanization with the third highest urban population growth rate in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), that is, 3.1 percent per annum between the period 2005 and 2010.[1] This urbanization process is increasing the demand for land and other urban services in existing urban centers (two cities, Belize City and Belmopan; and seven (7) towns) among prevailing conditions of lagging local economic development, inadequate housing and infrastructure, increasing poverty and crime rates and environmental degradation.

Furthermore, Belize is also recognized as one of those countries most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of Climate Change.[2] Considering that 64% of Belize’s urban population resides on the coast, of which 39% reside in Belize City, the country’s largest urban area and economic hub, urban communities are significantly exposed to impacts from a changing climate such as sea level rise and intense weather events including storms and hurricanes.

Escalating pressures from population growth and the compounded effects of a climate change coupled with socio-economic challenges such as high poverty rates (43%)[3] exposes many of Belize’s urban communities as acutely vulnerable and requiring urgent attention and intervention if they are to pursue a more sustainable and resilient future.

Krooman Lagoon is an increasingly threatened urban ecological space located on the southside of Belize City in the Collet constituency and is surrounded by the several communities namely, Fabers Road Extension, a portion of the Western Highway and the Antelope Street Extension. The importance of the area as a wetland habitat and important water catchment area for the city has long been recognized prompting the designation of the Krooman Reserve as a public reserve under the National Lands Act in October 2007.[4]

The reserved area comprises approximately 57.8 acres and the Lands and Surveys and the Forest Departments have responsibility for its management. Since its designation, there have been several concrete threats to the area. In 2009, approximately 9 acres of the reserve was sold to a Belize City business man who commenced land reclamation in the portion of the reserve that was sold to him; the sale was subsequently revoked due to public pressure.

Following the controversy, the government of Belize indicated that the area would remain as a reserve and any developments would be in accordance with the master plan of the Southside Poverty Alleviation Project, which proposes that the area be made into an attractive nature reserve while creating employment and self-sustaining activity community residents.[5]

Such plans have not yet been realized and recently the area has again been controversially featured in the news. Firstly in July, 2014, Belize’s Channel 5 aired a story that described how a portion of the reserve has been captured by squatters, who have built their homes, and begun to occupy the area.[6] More recently, in October 2015, after a weekend of usually heavy rainfall which flooded Belize City, Krooman Reserve was again brought to the public’s attention as the squatter settlements and surrounding community were among those areas most impacted by the flooding both due to proximity to the lagoon and the high incidence of poverty among residents.[7]

The intensity of this flood event also drew attention to the issue that unplanned and unregulated development threatens the natural drainage systems in the Belize City and in the immediate as well as in the longer term can amplify the impacts of natural hazards.

krooman-lagoon-floodIn the Krooman Reserve and surrounding community, the convergences of issues such as very high poverty rates and other socio-economic challenges; unplanned and unregulated growth and development; indiscriminate land filling and environmental degradation; inadequate and unsound housing and infrastructure; the compounded effects of climate change impacts; and weak, deficient and archaic policy, legislative and institutional capacity and political will to sustainably manage growth and development in these areas; demands urgent attention from a comprehensive approach that take into account pre-existing, changing and emerging conditions of the climatic, political demographic, socio-economic and cultural characteristics of people and of landforms and the environment.

The UN-Habitat as early as 1996 recognized that urban settlements, properly planned and managed, hold the promise for human development and the protection of the world’s natural resources through their ability to support large numbers of people while limiting their impact on the natural environment.[8]

While in Belize, the protection and management of our terrestrial and marine resources has long been a hallmark of the sustainable development framework, with approximately 26.2% of Belize‘s environment under protection including 36% of its land area[9], comprehensive urban development planning remains one of the proverbial missing links.

There is not a demonstrated national or even local focus on, and commitment to comprehensively planning and managing the growth and development of urban settlements as a means of providing a better quality of life for vulnerable communities, as well as ensuring that valuable natural resources and the ecosystem services they provide to urban communities are not adversely impacted or entirely lost.

Therefore, this research project is timely, relevant and of utmost importance as it seeks to approach the issues of the Krooman Reserve and its surrounding community from a sustainable urban development planning perspective which offers a tool and process aimed at bringing about successful communities, where people have good jobs and access to quality social services and facilities and sound and efficient infrastructure, and where there are safe spaces to recreate, socialize, worship and lead productive lives.

Such an approach will seek to demonstrate that a community whose needs are better met through comprehensive planning interventions can more effective protect and manage valuable ecological spaces with which they interact; and are better positioned to derive benefits such as ecosystems services, economic, social, cultural as well as increased mitigative and adaptive capacities from these ecological spaces; thus improving the overall sustainability and resilience of the community and entire urban system.


3.1 Research Goal:

To contribute to enhancing the sustainability and resilience of vulnerable urban communities in Belize, through comprehensive urban development planning and management practices within and surrounding valuable urban ecological spaces;

3.2 Specific Objectives:
  1. To investigate the current condition/s (ecological/environmental, economic, socio-cultural, and institutional) of the Krooman Reserve and the surrounding communities, with particular focus on socio-economic vulnerabilities and attitudes that contribute to human encroachment into the reserve.
  2. To determine the value, in terms of, but not limited to ecosystems services, economic benefits, social benefits and contribution to climate change resilience; of the Krooman Reserve to its surrounding communities and the wider Belize City urban system.
  3. To develop in close consultation with the Krooman Lagoon community, the Belize City Council and the regulatory agency, a framework to inform the preparation of a scheme for the protection, management and possible sustainable use of the reserve within a context of addressing broader community development issues such as demand for land and housing, local economic development, infrastructure improvement, designation and management of green/public space and institutional deficiencies and challenges.

3.3 Expected Outcome:

This research project will provide valuable insight and a mechanism for further action into an area of natural resource management that has not been sufficiently addressed in Belize, that of, protecting, managing and/or pursuing other sustainable options for important ecological spaces that are threatened by urban growth and development.

It is expected that this applied research project which entails significant engagement with the community residing within and in close geographic proximity to the Krooman Reserve in Belize City; will offer an opportunity for initiating a paradigm shift with regards to urban development planning in Belize, both in terms of the way urban residents value, relate to and interact with ecological space; as well as perceive themselves and begin acting as key drivers in the process of sustainably developing and enhancing resilience in their communities.

Specifically, the outcome of this research is as follows:

  1. A detail description (utilizing imagery, statistical graphics and geo-spatial products)  of the current condition the Krooman Reserve and the surrounding community including but not limited to:
    1. the ecology and ecosystem functions of the reserve.
    2. the impact of human encroachment onto the reserve system.
    3. the demographic, socio-economic, socio-cultural, socio-political characteristics of the community.
  2. A qualitative (in some instances quantitative) valuation of the Krooman Reserve ecological space.  The valuation will include but is not limited to:
    1. ecosystems services,
    2. economic benefits,
    3. social benefits; and
    4. and contribution to climate change resilience
  3. A framework proposal to prepare a community-based preferred development scheme for the Krooman Reserve and surrounding community to guide the community and potential partners as they embark on becoming better stewards of their ecological space.

The research will be divided into three (3) distinct phases that correlates with the research objectives above, namely,   Phase 1: Environmental and Community Assessment and Mapping; Phase 2: Community Valuation of Ecological Space Phase 3: Community-based Preferred Development Scheme


[1] Shlomo, 2011

[2] UNFCC First National communication

[3] Country Poverty Assessment Report

[4] Claim No. 831, Supreme Court of Belize, 2009

[5], July 30, 2009

[6] Krooman Lagoon is taken over by squatters, Channel 5 Belize, July 1, 2014

[7] Jerusalem Under Siege From Poverty, Channel 5 Belize, October 20, 2015

[8] UN habitat 1996

[9] Young 2008