Dr. Murray Colbo, Chair, Biology Department
Memorial University Newfoundland, and other MUN Scientists

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(Does not necessarily represent the views of MUN)

November 28, 2001
Minister Maria Minna,
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA),
200 Promenade du Portage,
Hull, Quebec  KlA 0G4.

Dear Minister,

We are writing with respect to the Fortis sponsored hydro-electric project which proposes to build the Chalillo in Belize.  This project was granted CIDA funds to carry out an environmental assessment. The results of this assessment indicated there would be serious impacts, e.g., disrupt the habitat of more than a dozen rare or endangered species including howler monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, and scarlet macaws, and inundate unexplored relics of the ancient Maya civilization. These are serious findings which we can not ignore. Although the National Environmental Impact Assessment Committee (NEAC) has given conditional clearance to Fortis we are concerned that it appears the review of the EIS did not address all concerns raised in assessment.  Also it is not clear at present that the NEAC conditional recommendation to proceed reflects the desire of the citizens of Belize most impacted by the project.  Canada supplied the funds for this EIS and we in Canada must be assured that our AID money is not used to promote projects not in the long term interest of the citizens of developing countries. Thus we need to know what concerns were raised by all interested citizens of Belize and that the response or mitigation measures proposed meet these concerns. We must also ensure all human rights were adhered to with respect to participation in this process. These are in fact the conditions CIDA outlines as its priorities on its web page below.

Infrastructure services: to help developing countries to deliver environmentally sound infrastructure services, with an emphasis on poorer groups and on capacity building.

Human rights, democracy, good governance: to increase respect for human rights, including children's rights; to promote democracy and better governance; and to strengthen both civil society and the security of the individual.

Private sector development: to promote sustained and equitable economic growth by supporting private sector development in developing countries.

Environment: to help developing countries to protect their environment and to contribute to addressing global and regional environmental issues.

You noted in your St. John's meeting "Strengthening Aid Effectiveness consultation" that CIDA wanted an exemption to the Canadian Environmental Assessment regulations because international projects with multiple donors should not have to have multiple assessments.  That argument makes sense in relation to multiple assessments but in the one assessment that is made, and in this case paid for by Canadian tax payers, our standards both in assessment and in the review and response to the EIS findings must be met. Why,  because it used CIDA funds and the project is owned by a Canadian company now subsidized by the Canadian tax payers money. Therefore the Government of Canada does have a major responsibility in this matter to ensure the EIS concerns for the Challilo are properly addressed in public by the review committee and that all their citizens are heard. This is what your priorities listed above state and they must be adhered to in this instance.


Dr. Murray Colbo, PhD

Dr. Faye Murrin
Associate Professor

Dr. David Innes
Associate Professor

Dr. L. Hermanutz, PhD
Associate Professor

Dr.Jon Lien,

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