December 17, 2001
Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will travel to Belize this week to support citizens opposing a Canadian-backed hydro dam that will drown a last rainforest refuge for Central American wildlife.
Invited by the Belize alliance of conservation groups (BACONGO), Kennedy will meet with citizens downstream from the proposed Chalillo dam, Maya Indian leaders, and local scientists, attorneys, conservation workers, to bolster the growing campaign there to save the Macal River Valley from Newfoundland-based Fortis, Inc.
As majority owner of Belize’s electricity monopoly, Fortis is pushing ahead with plans to build the Chalillo dam in violation of Belize environmental law, says BACONGO.
The required public hearings on the dam’s environmental assessment have not been held. Also, the dam’s environmental impact assessment, prepared by AMEC of Montreal and financed by the Canadian government, is inadequate and fails to meet Belize standards.
Kennedy, an environmental lawyer with the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council, warns that the dam is an economic boondoggle. "A billion-dollar multinational is trying to enrich its North American shareholders at the expense of the people and environment of Belize: this is the worst example of globalization."
Kennedy will take part in a "Save the Macal River" canoe race and family fair, which is being organized by riverside communities on Dec. 22, 2001.
Kennedy will also meet with government officials to appeal for a proper environmental review in compliance with Belize law, and to promote sustainable generating alternatives, such as biomass-fired cogeneration.
Also visiting Belize in the new year are Canadian activists Grainne Ryder of Toronto-based Probe International and Newfoundland’s Greg Malone.
If completed, the Chalillo dam would destroy a 35-kilometre stretch of unique river habitat, home to jaguars, tapirs, scarlet macaws, and other rare species. The dam would also flood several ancient Maya settlements.
Mr. Kennedy will be in Belize from Dec. 19 to Dec. 23, 2001.
To arrange an interview with Mr. Kennedy while in Belize, CONTACT:
Tony Garel, Chairman, BACONGO, Belize, Tel. (501) 16 9689
Grainne Ryder, Probe International, Toronto, Canada, Tel. (416) 964 9223 ext.228
Ari Hershowitz, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington DC, USA, Tel. (202) 289 2388
News of the visit will be posted at www.stopfortis.org.
Categories: Chalillo Dam