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BEDRAN HALL, San Ignacio Resort Hotel, Tuesday 18th July
Approximately 150 persons today attended the Ministry of
the Environment's (MOE) public hearing on the Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed construction of a
third dam on the Macal River.
Today's public hearing on the proposed construction of
the dam at Vaca Falls was held between 6:00 pm and 8:30 pm
inside the Bedran Hall at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel.
Magistrate Harrison Hulett was brought in from Belize
City to moderate the event. It began with introductory
remarks by Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria.
The moderator then proceeded to give a brief format of
the hearing in which he advised participants, in the public
comments segment, to restrict their comments to 3 minutes
and to be respectful when making their contribution to the
The program then moved into a joint slide show
presentation with Chief Environmental Officer Alegria
taking the microphone for a second time. He went on to
explain the concept, process and benefits of an EIA.

Next on the microphone was the Chief Executive Officer,
Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) Lynn Young. In his
presentation Mr. Young gave a brief overview of Belize's
current source of power supply. He spoke about the
nation's projected demand for electricity and the process
by which the construction of "the dam at Vaca Falls was
selected by the BEL and the Public Utilities Commission
(PUC) as the least cost source of energy supply to meet the
nation's growing demand for electricity."

Stephen Usher, Vice President,
Operations, Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL)

The next presenter was Stephen Usher, Vice President,
Operations, Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL). Like
BEL; BECOL is a subsidiary of Canada's Fortis Group of
companies and is the entity which owns and operates the two
existing dams at Chalillo and at Mollejon. Mr. Usher gave
an overview of the operations and performance of the
storage capability of the dam at Chalillo as well as the
power supplied from the small power generating facility at
the toe of the Chalillo dam. He also spoke about the power
generating capacity of the "run-of-the river" dam at
Mollejon as well as the potentials of the proposed similar
"run of the river" facility at Vaca Falls.
The final presenter for the evening was
Jamaican/Belizean Environmental Scientist Dr. Barry Wade,
Chairman and Principal Consultant from Environmental
Solutions Limited (ESL) being the firm contracted by BEL to
conduct the EIA utilizing Belizean and Jamaican
professionals. Dr. Wade spoke at length about all aspects
contained in the EIA. In a nutshell he portrayed a rosy
image insofar as the protection of plant and animal life in
the area. In fact he gave the impression that the bird,
fish and reptilian life in the area could be enhanced
rather than adversely affected. He encouraged that further
research be conducted for areas of archeological importance
before flooding takes place with the construction of the
dam. Dr. Wade additionally advised for responsible
agencies to continue testing for mercury content not only
in the area of the various dams on the Macal River but also
in other parts of the country.
Following Dr. Wade's presentation the program moved into
the "Public Comments" section in which a total of thirteen
persons presented questions and comments. Those
approaching the microphone were: Hector Silva Sr., private
citizen; Ramon Frutus, Deputy Chief Met. Officer; Candy
Gonzalez, Belize Institute for Environmental Law and
Policy; George Gonzalez, We Belizeans Against the Dam
(WeBAD); Peter Margesson, private citizen; Earl Trapp, Town
Council; Judy Duplooy, Resort Owner; Alberto August, STAR
Newspaper; Dr. Colin Young, Professor at Galen University;
John August Jr., Municipal Mayor; Eduardo Alvarez, JP and
Taxi Operator; Dr. Robert Richardson, Economics Professor
at Galen University and finally Martin Medows, private

Comments from the audience included:
a) The situation arising from the eventuality of the
breakage of one of the dams - Warning system for all those
communities situated downstream from the dam -
compensation/insurance for possible loss of life and
b) When will consumers begin to benefit from lower
electricity rates produced by this acclaimed cheaper source
of electricity?
c) The proposed site for the construction of the third
dam at Vaca Falls will be placing the confluents of the Rio
On River and the Macal River behind the Vaca Dam, how will
BECOL handle the sedimentation resulting from the massive
and natural flow of sand from the Mountain Pine Ridge which
naturally replenishes the beaches along the banks of the
Macal River?
d) Will we see the eventual disappearance or our sandy
bays and sandy river bottoms to be replaced by mud both on
the banks and at the bottom of the Macal River?
d) Who will compensate all those families with
properties along the banks of the Macal River who have
traditionally used the natural replenishment of pine ridge
sand on their properties as a source of economic benefit?
e) When selecting the dam as the least cost source for
the supply of electricity, did the authorities factor into
the equation the cost that will be associated with "fixing
the damage" that will be caused to our water. Did they
also factor in the cost that farmers along the banks of the
river will be force to shoulder for the purchasing of
fertilizers for their lands as nutrients, which naturally
flow down rivers, become trapped behind the dam?
f) How can they tell us that there will be an increase
in fish and reptilian life in the Macal River? Maybe there
will be an increase in the lakes created by the dam. With
a high mercury level however, will these fishes be good for
human consumption? How can there be an increase in fish
life down the river from the dam when it will be impossible
for fishes to pass through those turbines alive?
g) It was Hector Silva Sr. who asked what will happen
when the mad rush begins for prime lands around the lake
especially at Chalillo. Will we see the construction of
resorts and other tourist accommodations in the area? What
will happen to the human waste produced by these resorts
and private dwelling houses? Will this waste seep into the
lake, down the dam and into our homes as potable drinking
e) It was both Doctors Colin Young and Robert Richardson
from Galen University who informed that it is not
surprising for BEL (and the PUC) to find BECOL's
construction of the dam at Vaca Falls to be "the least cost
source of energy supply to meet the nation's growing demand
for electricity" when in fact both BECOL and BEL are
subsidies of Fortis Canada. "With access to insider
information presented by other sources, what else can we
expect?" asked Dr. Young. "In economics, this is what is
referred to as double dipping." said Dr. Richardson.

In driving this point further home, it was veteran
logger Martin Medows who drew the similarity of the
pre-independence era when the British were extracting
Belizean mahogany. The British, through the Belize Estate
and Produce Company (BEC) was formed in Belize and it
purchased logs from Belizean land owners at a low price. In
lands that it owned, it extracted mahogany logs by paying
cheap labor rates and in turn sold the logs cheap to an
offshore BRITISH company which transported the logs for
sale mostly to Jamaica where the logs were resold for huge
profits. In the end the Belizean forest was raped of its
mahogany trees, local laborers were underpaid and the
British laughed all the way to the bank. "It is amazing,"
he said, "how 25 years after independence we are allowing
ourselves to be subjected to the very same treatment, only
this time it is not the British but rather the Canadians
that are doing it to us."
Despite a request first from Judy Duplooy for answers to
questions posed by those attending the forum, Chief
Environmental Officer Alegria, insisted that the public
hearing was not designed to provide responses. He informed
that the moderator will be presenting a report to the
National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) which is
the body charged with making recommendations to the
Department of the Environment for final approval of the
Around 8:30 when it became evident that there would have
been no more questions from the audience and with 30
minutes before reaching the 9:00 pm closing of the public
comments section, Dr, Colin Young from Galen University
approached the microphone and requested that with the
professionals present from BEL, BECOL, DOE and ESL could
they provide responses, at the very least to some of the
most pressing questions, not even one of them budged, and
so the event was ended.

#382544 - 07/28/06 12:03 PM Re: PUBLIC HEARING ON THE DAM AT VACA FALLS
Barbara K Offline
:rolleyes: here we go again... I guess the GOB won't be happy until they sell out all of Belize's resources. Oil, dams, etc, etc - so much for "eco" tourism and 65% of the country being "preserves" as it used to be advertised. "Mother Natures Best Kept Secret" ha ha Not anymore!

#382545 - 07/28/06 02:34 PM Re: PUBLIC HEARING ON THE DAM AT VACA FALLS
JZB Offline
This whole thing makes me sick. For a country one quarter the size of Texas, you would think the government would do everything in its power to protect what makes it what it is and NOT turn it into a corporate whore.

Since Chalillo, my electric rate has gone through at least 2 increases and we have still have unreliable power. I am doubtful I will ever see the benefits from these dams that would outweigh the damages they have caused.


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