March 1, 2002 press conference
Press Advisory: Fortis to receive tens of thousands of petitions opposing rainforest dam

The "BRINCO of Belize", transcript of presentation by Greg Malone (3/1/02)

(St. Johns, NF) Fortis Inc. will receive 30,000 signed petitions from around the world protesting their proposed dam in the Rainforest of Belize, Central America.

On behalf of a coalition of Belizean environmental groups (BACONGO)  and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), local political activist, Greg Malone will present the petitions at a press conference on Friday, March 1, 2002,  at 11:00 am, at the Fairmont Newfoundland Hotel.  He will also announce the growing online petition opposing the dam.  Stan Marshall of Fortis, or his representative, have been invited to accept the petitions and respond to worldwide concerns about the construction of the Chalillo Dam on the Macal River in Belize.

BACONGO and business groups in Belize this month filed a lawsuit which charges Fortis and the Belize government with breaking Belizean laws by proceeding with preparatory work at the dam site before the environmental review process is complete.  These groups also charge that the environmental studies for the project, funded with nearly half a million dollars in Canadian foreign aid monies, are misleading and should not be used to make decisions about the project.

 “The geological report in the Environmental Impact Assessment is seriously flawed. The EIA’s conclusions also disregard its own wildlife report which warns of dire consequences for numerous rare and endangered animal species, and ignores warnings from scientists worldwide,” said Gráinne Ryder, Policy Director for Probe International which has called on CIDA to recall its study until the errors are corrected.

A preliminary hearing in the lawsuit will be held in Belize City on Thursday, February 28.

Fortis has maintained this is a good project for the people of Belize.  However, groups in Belize who have gained access to a copy of the contract for purchasing electricity from the dam, say it includes payments of more than $800 million Cdn. to Fortis over the next fifty years.

“We already pay Fortis three times what Canadians pay.  Fortis is making an obscene profit on the backs of the people of Belize,” said Sharon Matola, member of the Belize Alliance of Conservation NGO’s, and a leader in the fight to stop the Chalillo dam.

“We know how Fortis operates.  This is what they wanted to do with Newfoundland and  Labrador Hydro, and this is what Quebec got with the Upper Churchill,” said Greg Malone, who has been working with local environmentalists concerned about the project.

The petitions presented today urge Fortis to cancel plans to build the dam.  Many Newfoundlanders have joined in calling for Fortis to cancel the dam, as part of the online petition on the StopFortis website (


, Phone  (709)722-7777, Fax (709)722-1915

Gráinne Ryder, Probe International, Toronto, Canada
Phone: (416) 964-9223 ext.228.

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