Chalillo Dam

Still fighting for compliance: Belize’s Macal River

(April 5, 2014) A letter to the editor expresses concern at the lack of response from Belize authorities to environmental lawyer Candy Gonzalez’ public campaign for government bodies to implement a risk management program for the  controversial Canadian-owned Chalillo dam on Belize’s Macal River. In particular, the monitoring and testing of mercury levels in fish caught in the Macal and E. coli levels in the river’s water. Writes concerned villager, John Tut: “It seems that the Government of Belize has once again abandoned the well-being and livelihood of the Cayo people in favour of the monstrous multinational company – BECOL [the non-regulated hydroelectric generation business that operates the Chalillo dam, a subsidiary of dam owner, Canadian company, Fortis, Inc.].”

Published by Belize’ s Amandala newspaper on April 4, 2014

Dear Editor

In the February 14, 2014 edition of this newspaper, there was a letter from Mrs. Candy Gonzalez on the levels of mercury in fish from the Macal River. I must express my great disappointment and concern at the lack of response from GOB and BECOL to the issues raised by Mrs. Gonzalez. It seems that the Government of Belize (DoE) has once again abandoned the well-being and livelihood of the Cayo people in favour of the monstrous multinational company – BECOL.

Before the dams, the citizens of the Cayo District enjoyed healthy fish and clean water from the Macal River system. All this and more was sacrificed in the name of cheaper electricity and a huge profit for BECOL.

The people of Cayo were then appeased with the mitigating measure contained in the ECP [Environmental Compliance Plan]  signed with BECOL, which ensured that contamination of the Macal would be monitored and the communities kept informed when it was safe to eat fish and use the water from the river until parameters returned to normal.

As was stated by Mrs. Gonzalez, the levels of mercury in fish cannot be detected by smell or taste, and can only be measured in a laboratory. High levels of mercury in humans affect the nervous system in women and children, causing from birth defects to illness of the brain. It is only fair that the monitoring of the Macal continues as per the original ECP, so that the people of Cayo continue to be informed and keep their families healthy.

The affected communities of Cayo hereby call on the Government to live up to its obligation of protecting the citizens of Belize, and to BECOL to desist from increasing its profit margins and to continue monitoring the river system in accordance with the original ECP.

Respectfully,
Mr John Tut
Concerned Villager

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Fighting for compliance again: Belize’s Macal River

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