(October. 12, 2010) Letter by Candy and George Gonzalez on the failure of Belize’s Department of the Environment (DOE) to fully comply with a court order regarding the Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) for the Chalillo Dam.
We are experiencing a breakdown in our society. Respect for the law, our leaders, our administrators, our public servants and our families is unravelling.
We see it on the news, daily, as crime escalates, as corruption becomes the norm and as our laws are ignored.
Therefore, it is no surprise to see court orders being ignored or sidestepped and respect for the judicial system plummeting.
A dire example of this came to the front during the alert for Hurricane Matthew. People living downstream of the three dams on the Macal River did not know if there was a dam break nor did they know what to do if we had a dam break, other than to run uphill.
Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) received many calls from people concerned about the dams and whether they would be safe in the tropical storm. We could not give definite answers because we simply do not know. It is this lack of information that is frightening.
What we do know is that the Department of the Environment (DOE) has failed to fully comply with the Court’s Orders concerning the Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) for the Chalillo Dam. Their failure to take the Supreme Court orders seriously has forced us to go back to the Court (1) to compel the enforcement orders made in the previous decisions or to appoint another party to carry out the job to prevent further breach of duty; (2) for restitution for damage/harm caused; and (3) anything else the court deems just, including a contempt order.
DOE has made half hearted attempts to comply with the Court orders but the reality is that the public still doesn’t know anything about the health and safety issues related to the 3 dams – namely the quality and safety of the water from the Macal River; what should people do if any of the dams break, meeting and informing the people as required in the ECP and the court orders.
It is only since the recent filing in the Supreme Court that information on the high levels of mercury in the fish in the Macal River is getting any press. Even that information is not completely accurate and misleading which confuses as much as it informs. And why has it taken so long to share information that DOE and the Ministry of Health has had for over a year?
We did not want to go back to court; we wrote and met with the DOE attempting to get the court orders and the law complied with. But that didn’t happen. Actions speak louder than words and all we have gotten is a bunch of meaningless words, promises and reports.
To tell you the truth, we don’t understand this. It appears that the government cares more for the Belize Electricity Company Limited (BECOL) than it does for the health and safety of the people of Belize?
No one is above the law. The Department of Environment (DOE) cannot decide to enforce a law or not to enforce a law at their whim.
Therefore, we are back in Court on November 2, at 9am to seek an Enforcement Order and hopefully one that puts some teeth into the Order.
All of us have the duty to follow the law and respect the Constitution as the highest law of the land. It is the only way to keep from becoming a completely lawless nation; it is the only way to see an end to the senseless killings across the country. Everyone – government officials, the police, businesses, the people – none of us is above the law.
Candy and George Gonzalez
October 12, 2010
Categories: Chalillo Dam