A public meeting to address concerns regarding the proposed construction of a hydro electric facility or hydro dam within the Columbia Forest Reserve and Bladden Nature Reserve was held yesterday in Punta Gorda. The meeting was held at the San Pedro Columbia RC School; Chairman of the Columbia Forest Reserve and Bladden Nature Reserve Committee, Nicanor Requena, spoke to Love News.

Nicanor Requena; Chairman, Columbia Forest Reserve and Bladden Nature Reserve Committee

“Over three hundred Belizeans over the Toledo District called upon the Prime Minister to asked, in the interest of Belizeans and our protected areas despite the number of request to representatives from BNRC, our area representative Honorable Juan Coy and the chief forest officer. Neither has dialogued with us a result of the many unanswered questions in regards to unsustainable development in our pristine areas. Villagers from San Pedro Columbia form the San Pedro Columbia Forest River Reserve and Bladden Nature Reserve Committee, which sent a team to see first hand to see what the devolvement company was doing. We found numerous violations reference their permits and the National Park System Act which has resulted in the following resolutions tabled at yesterdays meeting. We hereby call upon the Government of Belize to revoke the connection agreement granted to Belize Hydro Development and Management Limited BHD on December 5, 2008, signed by the Prime Minister Honorable Dean Barrow. This development activity in one of Belize’s most pristine areas threatens the ecological integrity of Bladden Nature Reserve and Columbia River Forest Reserve, along with the social well-being of several communities in the Toledo District. We will no longer accept the unsustainable use of our natural resources that are the lifeline of our society.”

Requena also spoke of follow- up plans and actions.

Nicanor Requena; Chairman, Columbia Forest Reserve and Bladden Nature Reserve Committee

“We request that the Government of Belize publicly respond to the resolution in the event that this is not address in its entirety, we will have no other option but I engage in a peaceful protest to demand that our rights and the rights of our protected areas be fully respected. I want to say that in attendance were villagers from San Miguel, Indian Creek, Golden Stream, Medina Bank, Big Falls as well as Chairmen and Alcaldes. We also had in attendance representatives from PACT, the Protected Area Conservation Trust, Toledo Tour Guide Association, The Maya Leaders Alliance, SATIM, Yaxche Conservation Trust, Tide, Monkey River Tour Guide Association, The Association Of Concerned Citizens from Placencia, as well as representatives from the Toledo Alcalde Association, which actually held an emergency meeting this morning basically reinforcing their support to the committee and total opposition to the proposed project in this area.”

Nicanor Requena of the Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladden Nature Reserve Committee throughout the meeting voices of the people present continuously echoed strong objection to the construction of the Hydro Electric Facility, Hydro Dam within the Columbia River Forest Reserve and the Bladden Nature reserve in the Toledo District.