January 25, 2001
Canadian and U.S. environmental groups sign letter urging the Newfoundland-based Fortis Corporation to abandon its plans to invest in a hydro dam on Belize’s Macal river.
Toronto – Canadian and U.S. environmental groups are urging the Newfoundland-based Fortis Corporation to abandon its plans to invest in a hydro dam on Belize’s Macal river which would flood one of Central America’s best wilderness areas.
“As the majority owner of Belize Electricity Limited, Fortis Inc. would best serve the interests of its shareholders, Belize ratepayers and citizens, and the environment, by abandoning the Chalillo project,” the groups stated in a letter sent today to Fortis President Stanley Marshall in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Citing international wildlife experts, the groups say the dam will destroy a critical stretch of the Macal river valley that is home to endangered species such as the jaguar, Baird’s tapir, and Scarlet Macaw – fewer than 200 of which remain in Belize. The groups also point to a recent study by the World Commission on Dams which found that “efforts to ‘rescue’ wildlife [affected by dams] have met with little sustainable success.”
Belize has “cheaper, cleaner generating options that don’t threaten the country’s wildlife and riverine ecosystems,” the groups argue.
A study by Canadian consultants Agra-CI Power found that electricity imports from Mexico would be cheaper than Chalillo. And the Belize electricity utility’s own data indicates that bagasse-fueled cogeneration plants are a commercially viable generating option for Belize’s sugar and citrus growers, the letter says.
A copy of the letter has also been sent to federal government ministers responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency because the agency is paying a Toronto-based engineering firm, Agra Inc., to justify the dam’s construction.
Environmentalists have sent more than 20,000 letters, emails, postcards, and faxes to Fortis Inc. in the last year but Fortis Inc. has yet to respond to any of them.
CONTACT: Gráinne Ryder, Policy Director,
416 964 9223 Ext.228
Probe International is a Toronto-based citizens’ groups investigating the economic and environmental effects of Canadian aid and companies in developing countries.
Categories: By Probe International
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