December 14, 2001
Kennedy to Visit Belize: Mission to Stop Canadian Rainforest Dam

Environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will travel to Belize next week to support citizens opposing a Canadian-backed hydro dam that would drown a last rainforest refuge for Central American wildlife.

Invited by the Belize alliance of conservation groups (BACONGO), Kennedy will meet with citizens downstream from the proposed Chalillo dam, Maya Indian leaders, and local scientists, attorneys, conservation workers, to bolster the growing campaign there to save the Macal River Valley from Newfoundland-based Fortis, Inc.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer with the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council warns that the dam is an economic boondoggle. ďA billion-dollar multinational is trying to enrich its North American shareholders at the expense of the people and environment of Belize: this is the worst example of globalization.Ē

As majority owner of Belizeís electricity monopoly, Fortis is pushing ahead with plans to build the Chalillo dam in violation of Belize environmental law, says BACONGO.

The required public hearings on the damís environmental assessment have not been held. Also, the damís environmental impact assessment, prepared by AMEC of Montreal and financed by the Canadian government, is inadequate and fails to meet Belize standards.

Kennedy will take part in a "Save the Macal River" canoe race and family fair, which is being organized by riverside communities on December 22.

Kennedy also hopes to meet with government officials to appeal for a proper environmental review in compliance with Belize law, and to promote sustainable generating alternatives, such as biomass-fired cogeneration.

If completed, the Chalillo dam would destroy some 22 miles of unique river habitat, home to jaguars, tapirs, scarlet macaws, and other rare species. The dam would also flood several ancient Maya settlements.

Kennedy will be in Belize December 19 - 23. For news of the visit and more information, visit stopfortis.org

BACONGO is extending invitations to other leaders of the environmental community to come to Belize to help support local efforts to protect the Macal River Valley, and expects visits from Newfoundland and Candadian activists will follow shortly.

To arrange interviews with Mr. Kennedy while in Belize, contact:

, Chairman, BACONGO,  (501) 16 9689

, Probe International, Toronto, (416) 964-9223 ext.228

, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, DC

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