"If there's any untoward damage to the environment, we [Fortis] will not go forward with the project."
Fortis Inc. CEO, H. Stanely Marshall
"On the Go," CBC, August 3, 2000
Fortis Inc. is the majority owner of Belize Electricity Limited (BEL). As such, it wants to build a dam on the Macal River, in the southern region of Belize. The dam would flood important areas of the Macal River Valley, threatening the jaguar, Scarlet Macaw and the tapir - three endangered species that depend on this ecologically rich region.
Still, contrary to the quote above, the company - based in St. John's Newfoundland - isn't showing signs of slowing down with its development plans. This in spite of growing scientific evidence that indicates major long-lasting impacts on the area's ecosystems and species. Eighteen of the world's leading forest experts and ecologists have reached this conclusion. So have David Suzuki and other scientists, who have spent years studying the Macal River Valley.
The plan to build this dam could even raise energy rates in a country that is still struggling to stand on its own feet, having been colonized by Britain until 1981.
Community-development groups and activists in Newfoundland and Belize rekindled a fifteen-year-old linkage when Belizeans came to St. John's to protest the dam in May. The groups had first came together in the eighties because of their common experience as former British colonies. Now they have something else in common - Fortis, Inc.
There is a third link between May's visitors and hosts. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded the initial development plans for the proposed dam through the Belize government, which is a minority owner of that country's only electrical utility. Newfoundlanders who have a long-standing connection with people in Belize want to know why the company and CIDA refuse to make their plans for environmental studies public.
Canadian money is going into this project, without any requirement that the dam comply to environmental guidelines for similar projects in this country.
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