Belize Ecotourism Association (BETA)

To: Ismael Fabro, Chair of the National Environmental Appraisal Committee

September 4, 2001

Dear Mr. Fabro, 

Once again, the Belize Ecotourism Association requests your attention to our serious concerns regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Chalillo Dam Project—recently submitted to the Department of Environment—and regarding the public review process for this EIA. We have had opportunities to discuss the inadequacies of the EIA procedure with many individuals and members of Belizean organizations: we all share the view that it is most urgent to get this long-awaited information out to the public, and that every concern and question is addressed fully by project proponents and by NEAC before a decision on the Chalillo project is taken.

We would like to first register our concern that the current process for viewing the EIA is too cumbersome, and that this process severely limits public access to this document and the also limits the opportunity for public participation.  We therefore have the following recommendations:

1.  Due to the length and complexity of the EIA, prohibitive cost of printed copies, and geographical and time limitations which prevent many concerned people from having the opportunity to go to BEL offices or libraries to read them, we request that DOE require the project proponents to make the EIA available in CD-ROM format.  There are numerous companies in Belize that can burn CDs and make the copies; DOE could then provide them to schools and colleges—many of which have shown a keen interest in this debate—, and they could be offered for the nominal cost of the CDs by BETA, BTIA, Chamber of Commerce, BAS and other organizations.

2.  As distribution could still be limiting in some areas, and as this issue involves Belize’s international reputation, we request that the digitized EIA be placed on a website. BETA would be willing to assist in placing the digitized EIA onto a website, as well as with publicizing the location of the website.  An example of this highly successful method, and a site relevant to this controversial subject can be found at

3.  BETA further urges you to call for public hearings, as stipulated in Belize’s Environmental Assessment law, to be held during the EIA review period.  These hearings should be held throughout the country, as Belize’s natural and cultural heritage, as well as our energy future, are at stake in this debate, and concern all Belizeans. The hearings should be announced significantly in advance, to encourage participation. BETA would be willing to help host and publicize these hearings. Significant economic, wildlife, geological and archaeological concerns have never before been addressed, and these demand full disclosure and transparency, with ample time for discussion and comprehension.

4.  We urge you to establish a formal procedure to document all questions and concerns expressed to NEAC and DOE by those who comment upon the EIA, to make those questions and comments also available for public review and comment, and to establish a schedule for an official response to them.  We would like this letter to be documented as one such comment regarding the EIA and review process.

5.  Since a thorough review process is mandatory for such a controversial and potentially destructive project and since such a review—including the implementation of the above recommendations—will require more time than the standard 60 day review, we also formally request through this letter, an extension—to120-days— of the review period.  This review period should commence at the date that the EIA is made fully available to the public at large.

Knowing that your time and resources are limited, BETA offers our full cooperation and assistance to implement these aspects of the Chalillo EIA review process, as well as others you have or may deem necessary.  Due to the urgency of the situation, we respectfully request a timely reply from you regarding these requests, and trust that within the week (by Friday, September 7, if not before) you will notify us of your intentions for carrying out the requests, and how we may be of assistance in ensuring a fully open debate on this issue of utmost importance.

Most sincerely,

Board of Directors
Belize Ecotourism Association

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