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#17728 - 01/28/04 06:49 PM Belize dam awaits far-off ruling
Marty Offline
Belize dam awaits far-off ruling

By David Shukman

The UK's historic Privy Council is hearing a challenge to the
construction of the 50-metre-high Chalillo dam in Belize, in central
America. Our science correspondent has been to see the work in progress.

The work is well advanced
The long dirt road to Chalillo snaked up through the forests of the Maya
Mountains in Belize and the potholes gouged by the tropical rain were so
deep I wondered if our four-wheel-drive would make it.

Our first sight was a bleak encampment for the construction workers.

Row upon row of huts, surrounded by a sea of mud, house teams hired from
as far afield as China, Nepal and India.

As we waited to be escorted to the dam site itself, the Chinese workers
were preparing a feast to celebrate their New Year and their laughter
rose above the gentle sounds of table tennis.

Two of the project's senior engineers led us further into the mountains,
our cars eventually stopping on a sharp bend overlooking the deep valley
of the Macal River.

Far below lay pale scars of bare earth where the jungle had been
stripped to make way for access roads and assembly areas.

I hadn't realised how advanced the project was: heavy vehicles were in
place along with a massive rock-crusher and two storage towers for

Standing amid these giant works, it hardly seemed feasible that a panel
of British judges, sitting on the Privy Council, could actually bring
all this to a halt.

How it should look: Artist's impression of the dam (Image by Bacongo)
The dam's developers, the Belize Electricity Company, admit that the PR
battle has hurt them - who could match a protesting Cameron Diaz in a
canoe? - but they certainly believe that nothing will stop the project
from being completed.

The case turns on whether the environmental assessment was adequately

Campaigners argue that the rock at the dam site is sandstone not granite
as the developers once claimed and that a fault-line running right over
the site was conveniently removed from a key map.

The electricity company says its opponents latch on to the smallest
error and blow it out of proportion.

What will be lost? What will be gained?
Like so many projects of this kind, it's a question of balance between
encouraging development and minimising destruction.

Belize's image as an eco-friendly tourist destination may suffer if the
dam goes ahead. On the other hand, asks a senior electricity executive,
how will those tourists enjoy air-conditioning if we don't go ahead?

The dilemma is clear. The problem is the effects of the dam are likely
to be irreversible.

During my stay, I was cooled by an electrically powered fan but also
woke to a gentle orchestra of bird-song rising from the banks of a river
that may be changed for ever.

#17729 - 01/29/04 07:43 PM Re: Belize dam awaits far-off ruling
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Unfortunately the Privy Council has now ruled that the Belize government has the right to build the dam and can proceed. The court dismissed the appeal of the Belize Alliance for Conservation Non-Government Organizations.

--Lan Sluder
Lan Sluder/Belize First

#17730 - 02/16/04 07:29 PM Re: Belize dam awaits far-off ruling
SASSIK Offline
Originally posted by Lan Sluder/Belize First:
Unfortunately the Privy Council has now ruled that the Belize government has the right to build the dam and can proceed. The court dismissed the appeal of the Belize Alliance for Conservation Non-Government Organizations.

--Lan Sluder
So are there no further options? I am an attorney, but I also have access to a system which burns carbon waste, emits nothing but power and clean water, and takes up less than one acre. I gain nothing from the promotion of this system, but I have grown to love Belize as my second home. If they are willing to consider this process, we should be able to petition the court for a temporary injunction to give time to consider it.

Sandra Godfrey (sgodfreylaw@earthlink.net)

#17731 - 02/16/04 08:13 PM Re: Belize dam awaits far-off ruling
ckocian Offline
The Privy Council in the UK is its Supreme Court. The ruling was 3-2 to allow the project to proceed.

The effort of the opposition to the project is now centered on monitoring the construction of the dam and making sure its progress is in alignment with the laws on the books. The opposition hopes that Fortis will abandon the project in the long run, though that will not alleviate the damage to the site in the meantime.

Look at www.stopfortis.org for all the developments of late.

#17732 - 02/17/04 02:16 PM Re: Belize dam awaits far-off ruling
Katie Valk Offline
Mother Nature might have something up her sleeve as well-seems there's real problems with the geology, as geologists have been saying all along-with both the foundation and the buttressing. I was out there a few weeks ago and was gob smacked by the size of the project. But this is nothing to celebrate for us here, as we still need a source of clean inexpensive power and we'll still have to foot the bill for construction at the site. Loose Loose? Unless BEL is right and it will work. Quien sabes.
Belize based travel specialist

#17733 - 02/17/04 05:12 PM Re: Belize dam awaits far-off ruling
ckocian Offline
I agree with that, Katie, about Mother Nature. It's bound to be like the bottom of a colander under there. They'll never be able to contain all the water needed to drive the turbines even in the rainest of rainy seasons. But, indeed, quien sabes amongst the mortals?

#17734 - 02/17/04 06:27 PM Re: Belize dam awaits far-off ruling
Phoenix East Offline
Who believes in Jesus Christ? Its in his hands, he will do what sees fit, he always does.

#17735 - 02/17/04 06:45 PM Re: Belize dam awaits far-off ruling
ckocian Offline
Say, are you the American pilot of recent notoriety? laugh

#17736 - 02/17/04 11:37 PM Re: Belize dam awaits far-off ruling
SASSIK Offline
I just think they owe it to the Creator to at least try something else before bulldozing through the country just to "see if it works".


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