Chalillo Dam

Where things stand with Fortis’s proposed Chalillo dam

December 24, 2001

The last few months have seen major developments in the campaign to stop Fortis’s hydro scheme in Belize’s Macal River Valley. Here’s an update of recent events.


The last few months have seen major developments in the campaign to stop Fortis’s hydro scheme in Belize’s Macal River Valley.

AMEC, the British-owned engineering multinational, submitted its Canadian taxpayer-financed project justification and environmental impact assessment to Belizean authorities at the end of August. Last month, the Belize government granted a conditional clearance for the dam to proceed, pending completion of an environmental compliance plan, but no definite start date has been announced yet. Conservation groups in Belize say the government’s clearance of the project without public hearings and detailed environmental mitigation plan violates Belizean environmental law.

The case against the dam’s economic, technical and scientific viability continues to grow stronger as more international experts and Belizeans denounce the CIDA-funded justification report as misleading and incomplete. Just a few months ago, Fortis CEO Stanley Marshall said his company was ready start building in January, 2002, but that now looks increasingly unlikely.

Here are some highlights of recent campaign events:

Dec. 18-23, 2001:
Environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. joins Belizeans in fight to stop Fortis

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his team from the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council visit Belize at the invitation of the Belize Alliance of Conservation NGOs (BACONGO).

BACONGO continues to call for an open decision making process for the Chalillo dam and has organized a "Save the Macal River" canoe race and family fair for Dec. 22, based in San Ignacio, a community downstream of the proposed dam.

Nov. 30, 2001:
Environmentalists rally in Atlantic Canada

Rallies to alert Atlantic Canada shareholders and ratepayers to Fortis’s plans in Belize take place in Halifax, St. John’s, New Brunswick, and PEI – organized by the Sierra Club of Canada, Atlantic Chapter.

November/December, 2001:
Parliaments worldwide help champion the Macal River Valley. Former Prime Minister of Canada, Joe Clark, challenges CIDA over its role in the project.

Parliamentarians in Canada, the European Union, and Mexico are questioning the merits of the Chalillo dam in light of its threats to Central American wildlife and contravention of international conservation agreements. The Mexican senate goes further, requesting that Mexico’s energy ministry review how Mexico can help Belize meet its energy needs in an environmentally friendly way.

November/December, 2001:
Fortis’s proposed dam is a hot topic on Newfoundland talk radio; media coverage of the dam controversy grows.

The television and print advertisements to save the Macal River Valley direct hundreds of people to the Stop Fortis web site Look for further coverage on Cable News Network (CNN), CBC, and the British journal, New Scientist .

Nov. 8, 2001:
Belize’s National Environment Appraisal Committee ignores hundreds of pages of technical critique of the Canadian-funded EIA, refuses to call a public hearing, and conditionally accepts the assessment, pending completion of an environmental compliance plan. BACONGO challenges this as illegal.

Following protests in Belize, and shortly after a visit by Stan Marshall of Fortis, Inc., the government-led technical advisory committee (NEAC) rushed a decision to conditionally approve Fortis’ environmental impact assessment. BACONGO immediately sent a letter to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment with details of how its review process violates Belize law.

Nov. 6, 2001:
Hundreds of Belizeans protest against Fortis’s dam
Days after Probe’s press event at the Toronto Stock Exchange, hundreds of Belizeans gathered in Belmopan, Belize’s capital city, to oppose the Chalillo dam and protest the exorbitant prices Fortis charges for its electricity. Government officials, including the prime minister, tried to assemble a pro-dam crowd in response. A government-run television station later referred to the pro-dam demonstrators as a "rent-a-crowd." In general, public sentiment in Belize is strongly critical of the dam project.

Nov. 1, 2001:
Toronto Stock Exchange press conference, launch of print and television ad campaign

On Nov. 1, 2001, Probe International hosted environmental representatives from Belize, the U.S. and Atlantic Canada to alert Fortis’s directors and shareholders to the financial and environmental risks associated with its proposed investment in Belize. Addressing the conference, Robert Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Chalillo is an example of globalization at its worst. Initially, Probe had invited Fortis’s Board of Directors and AMEC to meet with environmental groups at the Toronto Stock Exchange, but Fortis and AMEC refused, saying there was no need for a meeting.

The Stop Fortis coalition launches its print and television advertisements nationwide, with an emphasis on Atlantic Canada where Fortis shareholders and ratepayers reside. To view the ads, visit to

For more information, contact GrainneRyder, Policy Director for Probe International, Tel. 416 964 9223 ext. 228 or e-mail

Categories: Chalillo Dam

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