Belmopan

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Belmopan
City of Belmopan
Aerials Belize WHwy 02.jpg
Belmopan centre in 2015
Flag of Belmopan.png
Flag
Nicknames: 
The Garden City, 'Pan
Motto(s): 
City of Promise
Belize physical map.svg
Red pog.svg
Belmopan
Location of Belmopan in Belize
Coordinates: 17°15′5″N88°46′1″W / 17.25139°N 88.76694°W / 17.25139; -88.76694 Coordinates: 17°15′5″N88°46′1″W / 17.25139°N 88.76694°W / 17.25139; -88.76694
CountryFlag of Belize.svg  Belize
District Cayo
Constituency Belmopan
Foundation1 August 1970 [1]
Government
   Mayor Khalid Belisle (UDP)
Area
  Total32.78 km2 (12.66 sq mi)
Elevation
76 m (250 ft)
Population
(2010) [2]
  Total16,451
  Estimate 
(2016) [3] [4]
20,621
  Density500/km2 (1,300/sq mi)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central)
Area code(s) 501 +8
Climate Am

Belmopan ( /ˌbɛlmˈpæn/ ) is the capital city of Belize. Its population in 2010 was 16,451. [2] Although the smallest capital city in the continental Americas by population, Belmopan is the third-largest settlement in Belize, behind Belize City and San Ignacio. Founded as a planned community in 1970, Belmopan is one of the newest national capital cities in the world. Since 2000 Belmopan has been one of two settlements in Belize to hold official city status, along with Belize City.

Belize country in Central America

Belize is an independent and sovereign country located on the north eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. It has an area of 22,970 square kilometres (8,867 sq mi) and a population of 387,879 (2017). Its mainland is about 180 mi (290 km) long and 68 mi (110 km) wide. It has the lowest population and population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 1.87% per year (2015) is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

Americas Landmass comprising North America, Central America and South America

The Americas comprise the totality of the continents of North and South America. Together, they make up most of the land in Earth's western hemisphere and comprise the New World.

Belize City City in Belize, Belize

Belize City is the largest city in Belize and was once the capital of the former British Honduras. According to the 2010 census, Belize City has a population of 57,169 people in 16,162 households. It is at the mouth of the Haulover Creek, which is a tributary of the Belize River. The Belize River empties into the Caribbean Sea five miles from Belize City on the Philip Goldson Highway on the coast of the Caribbean. The city is the country's principal port and its financial and industrial hub. Cruise ships drop anchor outside the port and are tendered by local citizens. The city was almost entirely destroyed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie swept ashore on October 31. It was the capital of British Honduras until the government was moved to the new capital of Belmopan in 1970.

Contents

Belmopan is located in Cayo District at an altitude of 76 metres (249 feet) above sea level. [5] Belmopan was constructed just to the east of the Belize River, 80 km (50 mi) inland from the former capital, the port of Belize City, after that city's near destruction by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. [5] [6] The government was moved to Belmopan in 1970. [7] Its National Assembly Building is designed to resemble a Pre-Columbian Maya temple. [8]

Cayo District District in Belize

Cayo District is a district located in the west part of Belize. It is the first-most extensive, second-most populous and third-most densely populated of the six districts of Belize. The district's capital is the town of San Ignacio.

Belize River river in Belize

The Belize River runs 290 kilometres (180 mi) through the center of Belize. It drains more than one-quarter of the country as it winds along the northern edge of the Maya Mountains to the sea just north of Belize City. The Belize river valley is largely tropical rain forest.

Hurricane Hattie Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 1961

Hurricane Hattie was the strongest and deadliest tropical cyclone of the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season, reaching a peak intensity equivalent to that of a Category 5 hurricane. The ninth tropical storm and seventh hurricane and major hurricane of the season, Hattie originated from an area of low pressure that strengthened into a tropical storm over the southwestern Caribbean Sea on October 27. Moving generally northward, the storm quickly became a hurricane and later major hurricane the following day. Hattie then turned westward west of Jamaica and strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 km/h). It weakened to Category 4 before making landfall south of Belize City on October 31. The storm turned southwestward and weakened rapidly over the mountainous terrain of Central America, dissipating on November 1.

History

After Hurricane Hattie in 1961 destroyed approximately 75% of the houses and business places in low-lying and coastal Belize City, the government proposed to encourage and promote the building of a new capital city. [7] This new capital would be on better terrain, would entail no costly reclamation of land, and would provide for an industrial area. In 1962, a committee chose the site now known as Belmopan, 82 kilometres (51 mi) west of the old capital of Belize City. [7]

Land reclamation process of creating new land from ocean, riverbeds, or lake

Land reclamation, usually known as reclamation, and also known as land fill, is the process of creating new land from oceans, riverbeds, or lake beds. The land reclaimed is known as reclamation ground or land fill.

Since Belize was a British colony (known as British Honduras) in 1964, Premier George Cadle Price led a delegation to London to seek funds to finance the new capital. [9] Although they were not ready to commit to funding such a large project, the British government showed interest due to the logic of locating the capital on high ground safe from storm surges. To encourage financial commitment from the British government, Premier Price and the PUP government invited Anthony Greenwood, Secretary of State for the Commonwealth and Colonies, to visit Belize. One of the highlights of this visit was the unveiling of a monument at mile 49 on the Western Highway. The monument records that Lord Greenwood dedicated the site for the new capital on 9 October 1965. In a way, there was a commitment.

British Honduras UK possession in Central America between 1862 and 1981

British Honduras was a British Crown colony on the east coast of Central America, south of Mexico, from 1862 to 1964, then a self-governing colony, renamed Belize in June 1973, until September 1981, when it gained full independence as Belize. British Honduras was the last continental possession of the United Kingdom in the Americas.

George Cadle Price Prime Minister of Belize

George Cadle Price, PC, OCC, was a Belizean statesman who served twice as the head of government of Belize from 1961–1984 and 1989–1993. He served as First Minister and Premier under British rule until independence in 1981 and was the nation's first prime minister after independence that year. He is considered to have been one of the principal architects of Belizean independence. Today he is referred to by many as the "Father of the Nation". Price effectively dominated Belizean politics from the early 1960s until his 1996 retirement from party leadership, serving as the nation's head of government under various titles for most of that period.

A storm surge, storm flood, tidal surge or storm tide is a coastal flood or tsunami-like phenomenon of rising water commonly associated with low pressure weather systems, the severity of which is affected by the shallowness and orientation of the water body relative to storm path, as well as the timing of tides. Most casualties during tropical cyclones occur as the result of storm surges. It is a measure of the rise of water beyond what would be expected by the normal movement related to tides.

The name chosen for the new capital, Belmopan, is derived from the union of two words: "Belize", the name of the longest river in the country, and "Mopan", [10] one of the rivers in this area, which empties into the Belize River. The initial estimated cost for building this new city was 40 million Belize dollars (US$20 million). Only 20 million Belize dollars (US$10 million) were available, but the momentum was not to be lost. [11]

Mopan River river in Belize

The Mopan River is a river in Central America spanning the Petén Department of Guatemala and the Cayo District of Belize. It merges with the Macal River at Branch Mouth, Belize, forming the Belize River, which ultimately discharges to the Caribbean Sea. The drainage area of the combined watershed is 9,434.2 km2 (3,642.6 sq mi). Tributaries of the Mopan include Chiquibul Branch, Ceiba Grande, Salisipuedes, and Delores.

Belize dollar currency

The Belize dollar is the official currency in Belize. It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively BZ$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies.

In 1967, work began; the first phase of the new city was completed in 1970 at a cost of 24 million Belize dollars (US$12 million). From 1970 to 2000 the administration of Belmopan was managed by the Reconstruction and Development Corporation, known as "Recondev." [12] Recondev was vested with the power and authority to provide, or cause to be provided, the municipal functions necessary for the smooth running of the city's business and infrastructure.

There was a reluctance initially amongst foreign governments to relocate their embassies to Belmopan as there was some doubt as to whether this inland area would really become the functioning capital. [13] The British High Commission opened in 1981 when Belize achieved independence, moving to its current location in 1984. In February 2005, the United States government broke ground and started building a new embassy in Belmopan, 43 years after it was chosen as the new capital city. [14] The U.S. embassy was officially opened on 11 December 2006. [15] Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Venezuela also have embassies in Belmopan, while Ecuador, Chile, and the Dominican Republic are represented by consulates. However, with four embassies and 29 consulates the former capital of Belize City still has most of the country's foreign diplomatic community. [16]

Design

The city layout centers around the Ring Road which is just under 4 km in circumference. The majority of government buildings are situated either within or around the Ring Road, and a large area within the Ring Road is also given to parkland. [17]

The National Assembly Building is the focal point of the city's design, with the grey stone architecture and broad steps designed to resemble a Mayan temple, reflecting the nation's cultural heritage. Surrounding buildings mirror this design, with the East Wing and West Wing buildings contributing to the overall impression of an ancient Mayan plaza.

The original buildings were designed with extensive ventilation to accommodate the tropical climate leading to a pock-marked effect on the buildings' walls.

Extensive internal renovations and the widespread introduction of air-conditioners has caused this design to become ineffective and inefficient.

Geographic setting

Belmopan is 50 miles (80 km) inland from the Caribbean Sea and 76 meters (249 feet) above sea level, located near the Belize River Valley with a view of the Mountain Pine Ridge foothills. (The climate at night is cool.) The city is off the Hummingbird Highway. Two and a half hours south of Belmopan, by road, is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. [18] It is served by the Hector Silva Airstrip.

Climate

Belmopan features a tropical monsoon climate (Am) under the Köppen climate classification. The city has a lengthy wet season that runs from May through February and a short dry season covering the remaining two months. As is the characteristic of several cities with a tropical monsoon climate, Belmopan sees some precipitation during its dry season. March and April are Belmopan's driest months with roughly 45 mm of rainfall observed on average during those months. Like Belize City, these are somewhat unusual months for a city with a tropical monsoon climate to have its driest months of the year. Typically the driest month for a city with this climate type is the month after the winter solstice, which in Belmopan would be January. Average monthly temperatures are somewhat constant throughout the course of the year, ranging from 23 °C to 28 °C.

Climate data for Belmopan
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °C (°F)27.9
(82.2)
29.5
(85.1)
31.4
(88.5)
32.9
(91.2)
34.0
(93.2)
32.7
(90.9)
31.9
(89.4)
32.2
(90.0)
32.2
(90.0)
31.0
(87.8)
29.4
(84.9)
28.3
(82.9)
31.1
(88.0)
Daily mean °C (°F)23.1
(73.6)
23.9
(75.0)
25.1
(77.2)
26.7
(80.1)
28.1
(82.6)
27.9
(82.2)
27.2
(81.0)
27.3
(81.1)
27.4
(81.3)
26.4
(79.5)
24.7
(76.5)
23.6
(74.5)
26.0
(78.8)
Average low °C (°F)18.2
(64.8)
18.3
(64.9)
18.9
(66.0)
20.6
(69.1)
22.2
(72.0)
23.1
(73.6)
22.5
(72.5)
22.5
(72.5)
22.6
(72.7)
21.8
(71.2)
20.1
(68.2)
19.1
(66.4)
20.8
(69.4)
Average rainfall mm (inches)129.3
(5.09)
55.2
(2.17)
49.8
(1.96)
41.2
(1.62)
106.6
(4.20)
249.7
(9.83)
279.8
(11.02)
223.4
(8.80)
250.2
(9.85)
222.8
(8.77)
193.3
(7.61)
143.2
(5.64)
1,944.5
(76.56)
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)12753716181516151213139
Mean monthly sunshine hours 170.5189.3241.8255.0248.0189.0201.5207.7171.0182.9165.0150.02,371.7
Mean daily sunshine hours 5.56.77.88.58.06.36.56.75.75.95.55.06.5
Source: National Meteorological Service of Belize [19]

Educational institutions

The city of Belmopan has three pre-schools, four primary schools and four secondary schools [20] as well as a modern Regional Language Centre (RLC) on the central campus of the University of Belize, [21] where students from neighbouring Spanish-speaking countries come to study English. University of Belize's campus in Belmopan has the following faculties: Education and Arts, Management and Social Sciences, Science and Technology, and Nursing and Allied Health. [22] The church/state system prevails in Belizean education, [23] especially where pre-school, primary and secondary school education is concerned, [24] and nearly all schools in Belmopan are sustained by churches. [7]

International schools:

Secondary schools:

Local missionaries and non-profit organizations also provide practical educational opportunities for Belizeans.

Culture

Ethnic composition

Belmopan Regional Language Center Monument BELMONUMENT.JPG
Belmopan Regional Language Center Monument

The population of Belmopan proper (an estimated 20,000 people in 2009) is of various ethnicities, including Kriols, Garifuna, Mestizo, Maya, and recent immigrants from such Asian countries as the People's Republic of China and Republic of China. [26]

There are five zones around Belmopan proper: [27]

Local and regional events

Some of Belmopan's noteworthy events include presentations by the Belmopan Choral Society, the Festival of Arts for school children, and National Day activities.

The University of Belize's Black Jaguars squad has won two national championships playing out of Belmopan. Nearby communities including Roaring Creek, Camalote, Esperanza, and Georgeville play a softball tournament in the early part of the year.

Social and community activities

The City Council promotes Belmopan as "The Garden City." A Crime Prevention Initiative has recently been introduced by the council in conjunction with the Belize Police Department, which introduced a Special Constable/Community Policing Programme. The council cooperates with social organizations like the Lions Club, the Belize Scout Association, Rotary International, and other NGOs. Social and cultural events and meetings of community groups are frequently held at the George Price Centre.

Museums

Museums and galleries in the city include the planned Belmopan Museum.

Transportation

Belmopan will be have proposed local railway line to Spanish Lookout and the proposed railway to Belize City.

Economy

Government

Belmopan Parliament Building Belmopan Parliament.jpg
Belmopan Parliament Building

At its inception and afterward, Belmopan was governed by the corporation RECONDEV (Reconstruction and Development Corporation), which answered to the government. [12]

Residents of Belmopan voted in a referendum in 1999 to switch to direct election of a city council. In 2000, Belmopan was incorporated as a city and held its first City Council election. [7] Anthony Chanona of the People's United Party was elected mayor with a six-man slate, and reelected in 2003. [28] Following the UDP's municipal victory of 2015, the mayor of Belmopan is Khalid Belisle. [29]

As Belmopan is the seat of government, many of its inhabitants work for the national government in administrative or technical roles. Many are based in the large cluster of government buildings around the National Assembly building.

Commercial

Largest Chinese restaurant in Belmopan Pride Of China Belmopan.jpg
Largest Chinese restaurant in Belmopan

Belmopan has approximately 589 business establishments (the 1997 census revealed the presence of 373). Five international banks are in the city, as are several local financial institutions. A bus terminal and market complex were constructed in 2003.

Industrial

Within the zoning regulations, Belmopan has set aside approximately 200 acres (81 ha) of land made up mostly of one-acre (4,000 m²) parcels in city limits. While there is very little industrial activity at present, the council has embarked on a scheme to attract local and foreign investment to the city. Plans are underway to create a 100 acres (40 ha) industrial park close to the municipal airstrip a paved 1,100-meter strip with no control tower or hangars.

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

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