BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 27, 2018– Most people would not compromise their safety, and the safety of their family and neighbors, for anything. However, for some people, the choice is between their safety and having electricity in their homes – something that is considered a necessity today.
The illegal act of attaching wires to lampposts in order to steal electricity is not something new in Belize but rather something that has been happening for years. Though many people do it, there are specific areas around the city, where it is more ubiquitous. Today, we visited one of those areas.
Gungulung, located in Lake Independence, is known for its “London Bridges” and dilapidated homes. The rains occurring lately have turned the pathways to reach the houses into muddy walkways, making some of the houses hard to access.
More disturbing than the mud, however, were the lots of wires connected to lampposts and held up from the ground by “line sticks.” The web of wires, which is dangerous to the touch, is a recipe for disaster and, in the wake of the fatal fire that took the lives of a father and his three children in Orange Walk Town on Sunday morning, it is surely something that needs to be addressed.
We spoke to one of the residents who is guilty of stealing electricity; she knows the danger in what she is doing and lives in fear. She told us that she has seen small fires and sparks when it rains and is afraid that one day her house will burn down.
Even more concerning is that her little son has been shocked more than once by the wires. Immediately outside their zinc fence is a red pickup truck that the child enjoys playing in and there are a couple wires that hang a few inches above the hood. The resident told us that her son had accidentally touched the wires and was shocked so hard that a neighbor had to use a stick in order to pull the child away from the wire.
The woman told us that she has been shocked as well, but there is not much she can do because she cannot afford to pay for electricity. According to her, it would cost around $2,000.00 for her to put electricity in her house.
She is only one person out of many that must choose between having electricity and being safe. Faced with the decision, there are many others who choose to do the same as she does.
We reached out to Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) to get their take on the issue. We asked them if they would be able to furnish us with an approximate percentage of people they believe are stealing electricity, as well as the legal consequences the people could face and how they (BEL) plan to tackle the issue. We got in contact with their Public Relations Officer, Sheena Garnett, who told us to e-mail the questions. However, up the press time, they have yet to respond.
Back in 2001, BEL had said that, besides the danger that stealing electricity can cause, it is also a criminal offense and the perpetrator can be charged for it.[AMANDALA]