Newspaper

  • Niall Gillett, a writer with the local paper The Reporter, recently reviewed BELPO's Guide to Public Participation in Belize.
  • The Maya community of Southern Belize scored a landmark victory in the courtroom – a victory that is bound to have far-reaching implications for that part of the country, including how the Government proceeds with logging, mining, and petroleum concessions in what the Maya community claims is over 500,000 acres of ancestral homeland.
  • There is no public advisory out; however, recently unveiled data on mercury levels in fish of the Macal River has one environmentalist and activist concerned that the community may be eating itself to poor health without knowing it.
  • Owners of ship Westerhaven must pay $11.5 million for damage to Barrier Reef caused by negligence
  • Government of Belize Establishes that Reef is Alive, and not Property
  • Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) has launched a new website. This site is designed to provide the community with updated information about what is affecting our local environment, the public health, and citizen rights.
  • Recognizing the fact that our World Heritage Site is in danger is an important first step in improving our efforts to save it. The potential for our inclusion on the "World Heritage in Danger" list is a positive thing, presenting both an opportunity and a challenge. Much of the attention over the last week has focused on a perceived "threat" to the tourism industry from a danger listing – but this is not likely.
  • The water being released from the Chalillo Dam is unfit for human consumption and cannot be properly disinfected due to the high levels of turbidity, according to Professor Guy Lanza of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, U.S.A.
  • Amandala article by Janelle Chanona about Chalillo Dam, 1/7/2008 Those conditions included that the public be informed, and as Conteh pointed out in court, it was unfair for the company to conclude that everyone “was a traveler on the information superhighway,” and moreover, the ECP had specifically stipulated that radio advertisements were to be used in the public education campaign. As for the information sessions, the CJ again took issue with the fact that no such forum was held in San Ignacio, even though again, that was a definite requirement of the ECP. Within that context, the judge went on to order that emergency plans be printed and placed in public buildings in Cristo Rey, San Ignacio and Santa Elena for easy access; early warning systems are to be tested routinely for effectiveness, especially in the hurricane season; mercury and water quality levels are to be reported to the public periodically; and BECOL is to establish efficient communication channels with residents, specifically through the Public Participation Committee. In delivering his ruling, the Chief Justice declared, “Chalillo is operational, but it is never too late to give out information.” This morning, Gonzalez expressed relief at the outcome of the case and contended that the entire matter could have been avoided if only BECOL had answered their letters of concern. Those letters and other correspondence had pointed to the river’s appearance, its smell, rashes that appeared on the skin after bathing and fear that the fish being eaten by residents were unsafe. As for BECOL’s attorney, Michael Young, he believes that while his clients were found delinquent in specific instances, the company has not been deemed irresponsible and in fact, has even gone beyond the call of duty in other aspects of the ECP at their own financial costs. But most significantly, Young says, the outcome of this case sends an important message to all developers, especially since BECOL’s ECP was the very first to be issued to a developer following an Environmental Impact Assessment. “This is to show that you need to virtually put the ECP on a table and ensure …that each one of the requirements is ticked off so that you know you are in compliance. If you have difficulty, you need to write to the Department of Environment, because there are times that what the ECP requires might be practically even impossible to accomplish, so you need to have that paper trail.” The Chief Justice also ordered today that BECOL and DOE jointly pay $15,000 in costs of court to Gonzalez and her group. Conteh maintained that even though this was the first ECP, and therefore unchartered territory for BECOL, the litigation could have been avoided if the company had made timely responses to the requests for information. The DOE was represented in the proceedings by Crown Counsel, Priscilla Banner. (Author’s NOTE: “Construction on the Vaca Dam by Chinese contractors, Sino-Hydro, is underway, and expected to be completed late 2009.)
  • The Guardian's summary of the issues in the Chalillo Dam situation