The Telegram (St. John’s)
October 11, 2001
It seems that Fortis had slipped this behemoth project through the formal channels of environmental assessment with nary an eyebrow raised until the Natural History Museum of London, which immediately raised the red flag.
I was shocked to learn that the St. John’s-based power company Fortis Inc. is planning on building a massive dam in the Upper Macal River Valley in Belize in Central America. It seems that Fortis had slipped this behemoth project through the formal channels of environmental assessment with nary an eyebrow raised – until it ended up in the hands of the Natural History Museum of London, which immediately raised the red flag. According to a scathing report from the museum, the dam would cause “significant and irreversible” damage to the biodiversity of the region, scuttling international efforts to designate the area a protected biological corridor and further endangering already rare species of jaguar, scarlet macaw, tapir (Belize’s national animal), howler monkey and crocodile. The damage would not stop at the environmental level. The need for Fortis to cover its capital costs in this mammoth undertaking would more than likely result in skyrocketing electricity rates for Belizeans. I don’t know what the per capita income level of the area is, but I’m sure the last thing the citizens of Belize need is a massive hike in their electricity costs. The other foot as I sit in my Ottawa office, I think about Newfoundland … home. What would happen if such a project was to come to fruition in a place as wild and environmentally diverse as Newfoundland? Ironically, we as Newfoundlanders do not have to worry about this happening in our own backyard, because public outcry has led to a moratorium on dams that destroy our river wildlife and further depress our fisheries. H. Stanley Marshall, the president and CEO of Fortis Inc., has publicly stated this project would be withdrawn if reports show that the dam would cause “untoward damage to the environment.” Citizens of Newfoundland, Canada and all of those who value our Earth’s few remaining green spaces, and the diversity of animal life that dwell within those spaces, should hold Marshall to his word and say “No” to the proposed Chalillo dam in Belize.