In London today, Attorney General Godfrey Smith told the five-man judicial committee of the Privy Council that the Chalillo Dam is fundamental to the Belize's economic welfare and warned of dire consequences if the project is delayed. The Privy Council is hearing an appeal this week brought forward by BACONGO, an umbrella organisation for a number of environmental groups opposed to the construction of the thirty million U.S. dollar dam on the Macal River by Fortis Incorporated of Newfoundland, Canada. BACONGO claims the Environmental Impact Assessment was faulty and that the geological study indicated the dam would be built on granite when in fact the area is sandstone and shale, raising questions about its safety. BACONGO is asking the Privy Council to order a new E.I.A., but construction on Chalillo has already begun. According to a report filed by the Canadian Press this afternoon, the Attorney General said that as a poor country, Belize relies on foreign investment to build public projects and he fears that the money would "evaporate" if the Privy Council orders the dam to undergo a second environmental assessment, possibly postponing its construction for years or causing the project to be abandoned. He is quoted as saying "Belize simply cannot afford for the world financial community to know that there is this kind of indecisiveness." Smith also said that while the dam will not necessarily provide cheaper power to the people of Belize, it will stabilise prices in the long term by making the country less reliant on foreign power. In referring to power purchases from Mexico, the Attorney General said, "It is not in our national security interest to rely on a foreign country for half our electricity needs." The Privy Council reserved judgement on the case on Wednesday and it could be weeks until a final ruling. This is the first environmental case ever to be heard by the Privy Council since its establishment the Middle Ages. Immediately following the newscast, Channel 5 will broadcast a report on the Chalillo dam, which aired today on the B.B.C.
Return to the StopFortis.org home page...