Environmental groups in the Central American country of Belize are
preparing to seek an injunction against Newfoundland-based Fortis
Inc. to stop all construction at its proposed Chalillo dam site. Fortis
president and CEO Stanley Marshall said publicly last year that his
company was ready to start construction this month, pending final
approval from the Belize government. But according to BACONGO, a
coalition of Belizean conservation groups, no final approval or permits
have been granted to Fortis and any work at the dam site is illegal.
BACONGO has repeatedly urged Belize's environment minister to
enforce the country's environmental assessment procedures, which
would require further studies and public hearings before a final decision.
The appeals, however, have been ignored. Fortis has also come under
fire from one of North America's largest environmental law
organizations, the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense
Council. If completed, the Chalillo dam would flood one of Central
America's last rain forest havens for endangered wildlife, including
freshwater crocodiles, tapirs, jaguars, howler monkeys, and the scarlet
macaw, fewer than 100 of which remain in Belize.
Another Canadian company, AMEC, was recently awarded the
contract to design the 50-metre high dam, according to news reports
from Belize.* Prior to this, AMEC received almost $500,000 Cdn
from the Canadian International Development Agency to conduct an
environmental assessment of the Chalillo dam. The report dismisses the
recommendation from British wildlife researchers that the dam should
not be built because it will cause irreparable harm to the region's
* NOTE: January 22, 2002 - David Paterson, Senior Vice
President of Corporate Affairs of Toronto-based AMEC informed
Probe International that the report from Belize about AMEC
winning the design contract was incorrect. Nonetheless Mr. Paterson is quoted in a recent Telegram article as "standing by" AMEC's studies, despite evidence that the geological assessment was completely flawed.
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