Belizeans' Legal Challenges to Canadian-backed dam

The Belize Alliance of Conservation NGOs filed two legal challenges to the government's approvals of the Chalillo dam project, backed by the Canadian-owned Fortis-Belize Electricity Company Limited (BECOL).

The challenge to the government's approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project went before the Privy Council--the highest court in the Commonwealth and lost a final 3-2 decision in January, 2004.

Below are BACONGO's grounds, arguments and some of the key evidence in the cases:

Challenge to environmental approval

Challenge to Public Utilities Commission approval (not posted)

Privy Council Final Decision--January 29, 2004

Privy Council final decision 245kb text (.rtf)

Privy Council Hearing--December 3 and 4, 2003

BACONGO Skeleton Arguments 580kb pdf (notes on Geology 261kb pdf, Environmental Assessment 242kb pdf)

BECOL Skeleton Arguments  475kb pdf (Annex I 84kb pdf, Annex II 184kb pdf)

DOE Skeleton Arguments 517kb pdf

Injunction Application before Privy Council

The case was heard on July 30, 2003

Court Decision (Court denies injunction, but warns Belize on Hydro Act) (300kb pdf)

BACONGO Skeleton Arguments (Richard Clayton, QC--39 Essex; David Wolfe, Matrix Chambers; Christopher Forsyth, Robinson College, Cambridge; Lois Young, SC; ) (650kb pdf)

BACONGO Petition (Richard Clayton, QC--39 Essex; David Wolfe, Matrix Chambers; Lois Young, SC; Richard Buxton, solicitor) (20kb pdf)

Appeal 1 of 2003

Appeal of Action 61, which challenges the rubber-stamp environmental approval by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee and the Department of the Environment.  The Belize Appeals Court dismissed the appeal, but found that the issues raised were of significance and merit review by the Privy Council.

Decision and Reasons, Belize Appeals Court, June 17, 2003


Injunction Application before Belize Appeals Court

Belize Court dismissed the application, ruling that it does not have the jurisdiction to grant an injunction.  BACONGO will bring an application for an injunction before the Privy Council

BACONGO Skeleton Arguments (MS Word 147kb)

BECOL Arguments (560kb)

DOE (Belize Govt.) Arguments (pdf 1MB)

Action 61

Challenges the rubber-stamp environmental approval by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee and the Department of the Environment.  See also August 2002 update with photos.  Belize's Chief Justice ordered the Department of Environment to hold a public hearing, but refused to overturn the approval of the dam.  BACONGO appealed the case to the Belize Appeals Court.


Environmental Protection Act (110kb pdf )
Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 1995 (62kb MS Word document)

Leave Granted:

Chief Justice Abdullah Conteh grants leave to seek judicial review, February 28, 2002 (pdf 22kb)


Chief Justice Abdullah Conteh decision, December 19, 2002 (pdf 450kb)
Further order on Hearing Procedure (amendment to decision, December 30, 2002) (html)

BACONGO Arguments:

NEAC/DOE (Government of Belize)

BECOL (Fortis) Arguments

Evidence: Affidavits

Minutes of the NEAC meetings on Chalillo

BACONGO affidavits (<60kb pdf each):
Anthony Garel, Chairman of BACONGO (description of case)
Luis Godoy, Deputy Mayor of San Ignacio/Santa Elena
Daniel Sosa, resident of downstream village of Cristo Rey (500kb pdf)
Phyllis Dart, President of Belize Eco-Tourism Association
Marcella Kelly, jaguar expert
William Eaton, microbiologist/water quality expert
Chris Bowles, hydrologist
Ken Prufer, Maya archaeologist

Richard Goodman, engineering geologist


BACONGO affidavits - Supreme Court:

Ambrose Tillet, energy engineer (third affidavit only)

Brian Holland, geologist (second affidavit only)

Candy Gonzalez, BACONGO's NEAC representative

Grainne Ryder, Policy Director, Probe International (on AMEC deal)

Jamillah Vasquez (second), Executive Director of BACONGO

Mick Fleming (second), Owner, Chaa Creek




BECOL affidavits - Supreme Court:

Jeremy Gilbert Green, civil engineer

Joseph Sukhnandan, Vice President of Planning and Engineering of BECOL

Lynn Young, Director, BECOL

James Code, engineering geologist

Dawn Sampson, PR officer, BECOL


Belize Department of the Environment affidavits:

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator

George Thompson, Archeological Commissioner, Department of Archeology

Ismaeil Elejio Fabro, Chief Environmental Officer, DOE

Ramon Frutos, meteorologist

Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, Belize Audubon Society

Icilda Humes, Head of EIA and Project Evaluation, DOE


Macal River Hydroelectricity Development Act: passed and repealed

Government repeals unconstitutional Act  following Privy Council warning (update November 2003)

Belize government passes unconstitutional bill to protect Fortis: Belizeans vow challenge in Privy Council (June 2003 update ; tv news report; editorial --Godsman Ellis; editorial --Meb Cutlack 1; editorial --Meb Cutlack 2; Belizean petition to recall new law--photo)

"Fortis-is-above-the-law" Bill  (600kb pdf)


Action 138

Challenges the approval by the Public Utilities Commission, despite the fact that BECOL is not operating with a license and did not obtain a consent to build the Chalillo dam and generation facility.

(Not posted)

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