..e-mail sent out from StopFortis:
We have a good note on the Macal River Valley for the end of the year: Chief Justice Abdullah Conteh upheld a major complaint in the lawsuit by Belizean environmental groups and has ordered public hearings be held on the dam project. Judge Conteh ruled that the process 'must stop' until hearings are held.
The judge did not, however, overturn the government's decision to approve the project, and BACONGO, the coalition of groups in Belize that brought the suit plans to file an appeal, and will prevail. The decision will be posted shortly on www.StopFortis.org.
Below is a news release from the Coalition with more details.
Happy holidays and thank you all again for your great support,
for the Coalition to Save the Macal River Valley
Judge Orders Public Hearing for Canadian-backed Dam in
Central American Rainforest
Belize's Supreme Court has recommended public hearings on a controversial plan by Newfoundland-based power company, Fortis, Inc., to build a 50-metre high dam in the rainforest of this tiny Central American country.
In a packed courtroom in Belize City yesterday, Chief Justice Abdullah Conteh advised that work on the Chalillo hydro project be stopped until a public hearing is held. "The public, I think, has a right to be heard,' said Conteh, ". . . if the inclusive and democratic process is to mean anything, especially on such a project as the Chalillo dam, with its admittedly wide-ranging ramifications.'
Justice Conteh called the environmental lawsuit, brought by a coalition of environmental groups known as BACONGO, 'unique' and praised BACONGO for defending the public interest.
BACONGO argued that Fortis' environmental assessment, which was paid for by the Canadian International Development Agency, was incomplete and rushed through a government-dominated committee without the benefit of public hearings required by Belizean law.
"Fortis and its government partners tried to bulldoze Belize's laws,' said Sharon Matola, a leading biologist and BACONGO member. "This decision moves us closer to putting things right.'
BACONGO intends to appeal the ruling, nonetheless, arguing that the judgment did not go far enough.