Chalillo Dam

Press Release: Newfoundlanders urge Fortis shareholders to scrap Belize rainforest dam

(May 14, 2003) At a shareholders’ meeting in Newfoundland today, environmentalists will challenge plans by TSE-listed power company, Fortis Inc., to build a hydro dam in Belize’s rainforest.

Newfoundland activist and political satirist Greg Malone will question Fortis directors about Fortis’ plans from the floor of the shareholders’ meeting at St. John’s Delta Hotel.

Working with other Newfoundland environmentalists and Belizean opponents to Fortis’ dam, Malone is a leading member of the international coalition to save the Macal River Valley.

The US$30 million Chalillo project, which would destroy critical habitat for rare and endangered Central American wildlife, has been stalled for three years due to protests and legal action in Belize.

Critics of Fortis’ dam, including Toronto-based Probe International and Sierra Club of Canada, argue that the dam’s hydro output — enough to power three medium-sized hotels — is not worth the irreversible environmental damage and risks to downstream communities. The town council of San Ignacio, representing 12,000 people downstream from the proposed dam site, wants a full-scale public inquiry because they are worried about the possibility of dam collapse due to faulty engineering and the dam’s impact on their water supply.

But Fortis has the backing of the country’s political leaders and has hired a Chinese company to begin construction of the 44-metre high dam before the rainy season begins in June.

Fortis owns Belize’s government-protected electricity monopoly (BEL) and the private company (BECOL) that wants to build the dam and sell its output to BEL.

“This would only increase shareholder risk,” said Greg Malone. He points out that two ongoing lawsuits in Belize’s courts have held the project back, and that another will be filed soon. “Belize’s courts have ordered a public hearing on the project. The lawsuits are strong, and I’m confident that the Belizean groups will win their appeal to the Privy Council. I am also confident that if shareholders take a sober look at the risks of this project, they’ll choose a better option.”

Malone and other customers of Fortis-owned Newfoundland Power recently questioned the utility’s Belize investments and its proposed rate increases before Newfoundland’s Public Utility Board. Many Newfoundlanders are also Fortis shareholders and have called on the company to cancel the dam project.


Fortis will hold its Annual General Meeting on May 14, 2003, 11 a.m. at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s, Newfoundland, 9.30 a.m. EST and 9:30 a.m. in Ontario. The proceedings will be broadcast live on the internet at www.fortisinc.com.

CONTACT:

Greg Malone
Save the Macal River Valley Coalition
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Tel. (709) 722-7775
Fax (709) 722-1915

For further information, see Probe International’s website at http://journal.probeinternational.org

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Categories: Chalillo Dam

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