On Tuesday, the Chalillo Dam was officially declared open. Chief governmental proponent, Utilities Minister Ralph Fonseca called it a victory for sincere, development-minded Belizeans and a defeat for those he called irrational foreign funded critics. Those who’ve criticized the dam for the deleterious effect they predict it will have on river environment have been silent, but they haven’t gone away. George Gonzalez and Candy Gonzalez both environmentalists living in Cayo today told us that the dam may be complete but the fight is far from over.
“How can we quit when what we’ve been fighting for hasn’t been addressed. We’re fighting for our safety, we live there, and for our neighbors and our friends, my children swim in the water and the water is becoming contaminated, their getting rashes and things like that, which we said would happen and they [BECOL] agreed. So those are two of the main things.”
“When it was finally discovered that the information about the dam, and where the dam was going to be built, was not granite but sandstone and shale, mainly, they had to redesign the dam and the design plans were supposed to be made public so that people could have some confidence, in terms of the safety of the dam structure. But those things have not been made public; also, there has not been any public information given out about the water, about the safety issues, about any of the issues that are in the compliance plan that they are supposed to follow.
We hope that the issues that we’re raising about the safety of the fish and the safety of the water, will be addressed. That is why we keep talking about this and we’re not going to go away until the safety issues are addressed, we’re not going to go away as long as they’re planning a third dam that might impact the river even worse. They don’t even know what the impact of Chalillo is going to be on the river and they are planning a third.”
“If we don’t say anything and bad things happen, it is too late to say anything. Whereas if we keep saying something and it happens, and they can’t say they didn’t know. And if they say they had an agreement [with the Government of Belize] that you couldn’t sue us, we’ll say that is unconstitutional. They can’t take away our rights to defend ourselves against somebody when they’ve done wrong.”
Fortis which owns BECOL declared net earnings of $37.4 million for the third quarter of this year, that’s $12 million more than the same period last year. Utilities in the Caribbean contributed 6.2 million dollars to those earnings, 35% more than last year.
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