The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy is taking the government to court. According to the organization’s president Candy Gonzalez, Thursday’s lawsuit in the Supreme Court against the Department of the Environment is based on four main issues, but boils down to simply getting the government to enforce the law.

Candy Gonzalez – President, BELPO
“This is will be the third time, the first time in 2007 was an enforcement for the court to recognize that the environmental compliance plan for the Challillo Dam was not being enforced and we won that case and then in 2009 when we still felt there was not complete compliance we went back to court and we won that case where the court recognized that we were correct and saying that there has not complete compliance with the environmental compliance plan or the court order from the previous case. Now we are back with the same situation where for instance the Government failed to issue any mercury alert over a two year period of time when they had readings of high mercury levels in the fish of the Macal River and it wasn’t until we were ready to go back to court on this case that they issued the alert this past July and you carried the alert story, how high the level of mercury is in the fish, these are public health issues. Also we have only had only one simulation that I am aware of and that was in January 2010 of what people should do in case of a dam break so there is confusion of what to do in case of a dam break due to total lack of communication with the people of the area.”

The two court orders were obtained in September of 2008 and June of 2010. Gonzalez says her organization has been working with residents in the area downstream of the Challilo Dam who would be adversely affected in the event of any emergency; but she says, government compliance has been making things difficult. The four main issues that form the basis for the new BELPO lawsuit are risks of high levels of Mercury in Fish; an early warning system in the event of a dam break; information on water quality in the Macal River and the functioning of a public participation Committee.