November 21, 2001

Law Students in Halifax Oppose Fortis Dam in Belize

Representatives from law societies of Dalhousie University in Halifax wrote an open letter to Fortis, opposing its planned hydro-electric project in Belize


Mr. Stanley Marshall
President and CEO
Fortis Inc.

P.O. Box 8837
FORTIS Building, Suite1201
139 Water Street
St John's, NF
Canada A1B 3T2

November 21, 2001

ELSS, Environmental Law Students Society
CESR, Society for Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility
ILSS, International Law Students Society

Dalhousie University
6061 University Ave.
Halifax, N.S. B3H 4H9

Dear Mr. Marshall,

Re: Chalillo Dam

We have recently become aware of your companyís collaboration with the Belizean government in the building of a hydroelectric dam.

Published research by renowned scientists and lobby groups has shown that the environmental repercussion of such a project will be severe. Mainly, the flooding of 22 miles of the Macal Valley will obliterate more than 2,000 crucial acres of a unique biologically diverse habitat. It is the Macal Valley that is considered a key piece of any conservation plan to save the jaguar for future generations.

The effects of the dam will be far-reaching and have a direct influence on the health of the people who live near by, due to the problem of accumulation of toxins in the reservoir. The flooding of the area will flood ancient Mayan settlements, thus destroying significant cultural and historical artifacts of our human culture for future generations. Moreover, a study from the World Bank showed that the vegetative community found in the river valley is extremely rare and can be found mainly in the area designated to be flooded. The potential benefits of rare plants as medicinal resources has just begun; it would be tragic to destroy resources which have yet to be discovered, all in the name of creating a relatively insignificant source of power.

It would be a shameful and tragic mark on a Canadian company to negatively impact an ecological system, particularly as an independent study has shown that the project is economically unsound. Information provided by lobbying groups notes that your company has submitted a formal fiscal plan for the project, despite an environmental impact study which finds that the dam would cause a serious decline in the region's biodiversity, threaten an international wildlife corridor, and possibly wipe out Belize's scarlet macaw subspecies.

As law students and graduate students, we are aware of the importance of being active citizens and consumers. We have a duty to inform decision makers, whether in the private or public sectors, about the needs and desires of Canadian people concerned about the future of our environment and the foreign business policies made on behalf of this country.

The regionís biodiversity, which is already recognized as an important biological area by the industry and conservationists alike, should be protected from the environmentally devastating effects that erecting a dam will invariably cause. As one of the G-8 countries, we have the wealth and resources to be able to strive towards finding responsible energy solutions that do not result in harmful ecological and humanitarian effects.  It should also be noted that Canada was one of the first nations to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty that binds states to take action to protect threatened species and their habitats.

For the future generations and the preservation of the natural treasures of Belize, we urge you to demonstrate corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship. We look forward to your reply and thank you for your consideration on this matter.

Sincerely,

ELSS, CESR, ILSS
Dalhousie University

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Cc.

Honourable Brian Tobin, Minister of Industry
Honourable David Anderson, Minister of the Environment
Honourable Maria Minna, Canadian International Development Agency
Grainne Ryder, Probe International
Elizabeth May, Sierra Club of Canada
Robert Kennedy Jr., Natural Resources Defense Council
Greg Malone, Newfoundland Hydro Activist
Humber Environmental Action Group, Newfoundland

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