Canadian International Development Agency

At the public trough!

The Belize Reporter

December 3, 2000

“Fortis seeks and gets Canadian funding”. Article quotes Grainne Ryder.

A Canadian environmental organization, Probe International, has expressed the opinion that the proposed Chalillo Dam project in Belize is a “loser”!
Fortis, the Canadian company which owns the majority shares of BEL, has asked the Canadian Government to pay for a project justification study on Chalillo. This is “a gross abuse of public funds,” Probe says.

Probe International was replying to a letter from Mr. Norris Hall, who wrote to say that the interest which certain environmental organizations have been showing in the Chalillo Dam is “meddling in Belize’s domestic affairs,” and shows a lack of respect for Belize’s sovereignty and national integrity.

In a reply letter sent to all the Belize print media, Grainne Ryder, Policy Director of Probe International, defended Probe’s position. Citizens’ groups in North America have every right to voice their concerns and opposition to a project that is designed to benefit North American investors at the expense of the Belize environment and economy.

Ryder in her letter discloses that Fortis Inc. has tapped into Canada’s foreign aid budget to pay for a project justification report on Chalillo. She explains that while her organization is not trying to impose any standards or decisions on the people of Belize, “we think the Chalillo scheme is a loser, based on our years of investigating similar schemes around the world.

“And we can certainly object to the use of Canadian aid to help build it! We can also let others know why we think the dam should not be built.

“We believe that Fortis will be hard pressed to come up with private capital for this scheme without government subsidies. Clearly it has so little confidence in its scheme that it had to appeal to the Canadian government to pay for a project justification and another round of environmental reporting.

“Why is it that one of Canada’s wealthiest corporations is unwilling to foot the bill for Chalillo’s studies, and yet other Canadian taxpayers are forced to pay for them?

“We don’t think Fortis should be at the public trough in Canada to cover its expenses in Belize. That is our position regardless of what Fortis is proposing to do in Belize”, Ryder said.

On June 12 this year CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, agreed to pay Agra Inc. close to $250,000 to produce a “project justification report” as well as additional reports aimed at identifying ways to mitigate threats to wildlife and other environmental damage which would be caused by the proposed Chalillo Dam in Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge.

Documents obtained by Probe International under Canada’s Access to Information Act revealed the plan to help pay the world’s third largest engineering firm to justify the dam construction in Belize.

According to CIDA-Agra contract, the justification report is expected to summarize Agra’s feasibility study to make it more “comprehensible” to financiers such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

But the CIDA-Agra plan is meeting some stiff oppostion from Probe International. Probe points out that a new study by the World Commission on Dams, an independent body financed in part by CIDA to review the global experience regarding large dams, has finished its report. The report concludes: “It is not possible to mitigate many of the impacts of reservoir creation on terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity.

“Large dams, the report says, “have led to “significant and irreversible loss of species and ecosystems.”

And what does Probe make of the present plans to build a large new dam at Chalillo?

“No matter how hard CIDA, and Agra try to justify this dam, there is no disguising the fact that it is a rotten deal for the people and economy of Belize”, according to Ryder.

“Belize has far better, cheaper generating options than a $30 million dam that won’t work half the year and will destroy wildlife habitat forever.

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