Chalillo Dam

Environmental clearance for Canadian-backed hydro scheme in Belize illegal, say conservation groups

December 31, 2001

Conservation groups opposing a Canadian-backed
hydro scheme in a Belize rainforest are challenging the government’s
environmental clearance for the project as illegal.

A Belizean alliance of conservation groups are urging the Belize
Minister of Natural Resources, the Environment and Industry, John
Briceno, to reject last month’s decision by a government committee to
approve the Chalillo dam’s environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The alliance, known as BACONGO, says the committee’s rushed approval of
the EIA violates Belize’s environmental review procedures, and that the
EIA – prepared by Canadian engineering consultants, AMEC, with funding
from the Canadian International Development Agency – fails to meet
Belizean standards.

“The EIA contains major errors and omissions, and, therefore, does not
provide a legal basis for permitting construction of the dam,” says
Jamillah Vasquez, Executive Director of BACONGO, one of two
non-government organizations appointed to the committee.

The committee’s vote to approve the EIA was taken without the required
public hearings and before committee members had time to review
hundreds of pages of technical documentation, notes Ms. Vasquez. The
committee also failed to record dozens of submissions from independent
experts, archeologists, and concerned groups, including the Belize
Ecotourism Association.

Meanwhile, in Canada, Probe International and other environmental
groups are pressuring the federal government to take responsibility for
the EIA fiasco.

“Rather than upholding the highest environmental standards, the
Canadian International Development Agency has sponsored a sloppy and
secretive environmental review process,” says Gr√°inne Ryder, Policy
Director of Probe International. “The Canadian government should
apologize to the people of Belize and order AMEC to reimburse every
last dime of taxpayers’ money.”

Records obtained by Probe International using Canada’s Access to
Information Act indicate that CIDA has agreed to pay AMEC almost
$500,000 for its EIA work in Belize.

-30-

For more information, CONTACT:
Jamillah Vasquez, Executive Director, BACONGO, Belize, Tel.(501) 233-385
Gr√°inne Ryder, Probe International, Toronto, Tel.(416) 964-9223 ext.228

Categories: Chalillo Dam

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