Resolution on the Protection of the Macal River Valley in Belize

Date:

25/11/2004

Source:

IUCN

Matter:

Chalillo Dam, Belize

World Conservation Congress Resolution

on the

Protection of the Macal River Valley in Belize

(CGR3.RES032)

RECALLING that the World Conservation Congress at its 2nd Session (Amman, 2000) adopted Recommendation 2.86 (Protection of the Macal River Valley in Belize);

RECALLING that this Recommendation identified the tropical forests of Belize as providing some of

the richest and best preserved habitat for endangered flora and fauna in Central America, and in particular, described the outstanding conservation values of Belize's Macal River Valley, an area that features important habitat for species of international significance including the Jaguar (Panthera onca), Morelet's Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii), Belize's national animal, the Central American Tapir (Tapirus bairdii), and a local sub-species of Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao cyanoptera), numbering fewer than 200 in Belize;

RECALLING that this Recommendation referred to the proposal to build a hydro-electric storage

dam, known as the "Chalillo Project" on the Upper Macal River, which would flood parts of the

protected Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Chiquibul Forest Reserve, and parts of the Chiquibul National Park; 39

RECALLING that this Recommendation

1. Urged the sponsors of the Chalillo Project to conduct a fully transparent and participatory environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the proposed hydro-electricity facility, and to agree to terminate the project unless such EIA shows that the project would not cause significant degradation or destruction of wildlife habitat and the natural environment;

2. Called on the government of Belize to require that a fully transparent and participatory environmental impact assessment be conducted for the project and not to allow construction of the project unless such EIA showed that the project would not cause significant degradation or destruction of wildlife habitat and the natural environment; and

3. Requested the Director General of IUCN to provide technical and scientific support to Belize during the preparation, review and evaluation of the EIA;

FURTHER RECALLING that the 2nd World Conservation Congress adopted Recommendation 2.87 (Protected areas and the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor), which highlighted the various initiatives signed and supported by regional governments concerning the Corridor and called on the States of Mesoamerica to continue implementation of and compliance with their regional and international environmental commitments;

NOTING that the Belize Electricity Company Limited (BECOL), owned by Fortis, Inc. of Newfoundland, Canada, submitted an EIA prepared with financial support of the Government of Canada on the Chalillo Project to the government of Belize in August, 2001;

AWARE that the wildlife study for the EIA, conducted by the Natural History Museum of London, concluded that the project would cause significant degradation and destruction of wildlife habitat and the natural environment, resulting in "significant and irreversible reduction of biological diversity in Belize" and the "fragmentation of the proposed Mesoamerican Biological Corridor";

AWARE that this wildlife study recommended that if a decision were made to continue planning for the project, substantial additional research about the potential impacts on wildlife be undertaken, and said that "much more information is required for an informed and defensible decision";

NOTING that IUCN Mesoamerica provided a technical analysis of the EIA, which concluded that the EIA was insufficient and required "more biological, ecological, geological, hydrological and socio-economic baseline studies, from which to have a justified and solid final decision"; AWARE that the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) of Belize nonetheless approved the EIA, that the Department of Environment allowed the project to go forward, that the courts refused to overturn such approval, that construction began in May 2003 and is now ongoing;

NOTING that approval for the Chalillo Project was conditional upon fulfilment of an environmental compliance plan that includes studies of the safety and geological suitability of the site, studies of the Maya heritage sites that would be affected by the project, monitoring of the project site and evaluation of the construction effects on wildlife and the natural environment;

FURTHER NOTING that access to the project construction site has been restricted and that there is no publicly available information about any follow-up to the studies and assessments referred to above, including the results of any archaeological or monitoring studies, or studies of the effects of construction on wildlife and the natural environment;

REAFFIRMING the view expressed in Recommendation 2.86 that all decisions regarding the project must take into account the best interest of the people of Belize and their desire to achieve balanced development; and

RECOGNISING that a public and transparent accounting of the benefits and effects of this project serves the best interest of the people of Belize;

The World Conservation Congress at its 3rd Session in Bangkok, Thailand, 17-25 November 2004:

1. CALLS on the Government of Belize to create an independent commission of national and international experts, including ones identified by local communities, to:

(a) investigate and report on the potential benefits of the project as well as the impacts of the continued construction of the project on public safety, water quality for downstream communities, wildlife populations, and on the Meso-American Biological Corridor; and

(b) include in this report recommendations for future action, including measures to minimize harmful impacts on wildlife and wildlife habitat, and steps to ensure compliance with these measures;

2. CALLS on BECOL and Fortis, Inc. to make available to the public and to any such commission as referred to under (1) all available data that are relevant to the project's potential benefits, safety issues, and environmental effects; and

3. REQUESTS the Director General of IUCN to provide, to the extent possible, technical and scientific support for the proposed commission to assist in determining the impacts of the construction of the project on public safety, water quality and wildlife populations, and on the Meso-American Biological Corridor.

Sponsors:

Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Centre, Belize

Belize Audubon Society (BAS), Belize

Centro de Derecho Ambiental y de los Recursos Naturales (CEDARENA), Costa Rica

Asociación de Organizaciones del Corredor Biológico Talamanca-Caribe (CBTC), Costa

Rica

Asociación Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestres (APREFLOFAS), Costa Rica

Consejo de la Tierra, Costa Rica

Fundación Acceso (ACCESO), Costa Rics

Asociación Mesa Nacional Campesina (MNC), Costa Rica

Asociación Ecológica de Paquera, Lepanto y Cubano (ASEPALECO), Costa Rica

Asociación de Voluntariado, Investigación y Desarrollo Ambiental (VIDA), Costa Rica

Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (CITMA), Cuba

Sociedad Cubana para la Protección del Medio Ambiente (ProNaturaleza), Cuba

SalvaNatura, El Salvador

Centro de Protección para Desastres (CEPRODE), El Salvador

Asociación Salvadoreña Pro-Salud Rural (ASAPROSAR), El Salvador

Fundación Salvadoreña de Desarrollo y Humanismo Maquilishuatl (FUMA), El Salvador

Fundación para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Comunal del El Salvador (CORDES), El

Salvador

Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña (UNES), El Salvador

Fundación Solar, Guatemala

Asociación Amigos del Bosque, Guatemala

Asociación Rescate y Conservación de Vida Silvestre (ARCAS), Guatemala

Centro Mesoamericano de Estudios sobre Tecnología Apropiada (CEMAT), Guatemala

Defensores de la Naturaleza, Guatemala

Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO), Guatemala

Asociación para la Recuperación y el Saneamiento Ambiental (ARMSA), Guatemala

Fundación de Defensa del Medio Ambiente Baja Verapaz (FUNDEMABV), Guatemala

Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (MARN), Guatemala

Fundación "Vida", Honduras Voluntarios para la Asistencia Técnica de Honduras (VITA), Honduras

Agencia para el Desarrollo de la Mosquitia

(MOPAWI), Honduras

PG7 Consultores, SC Faunam A.C., Mexico

Fundación Mexicana para la Educación Ambiental (FUNDEA), Mexico

Instituto Mexicano de Recursos Naturales Renovables (IMERNAR), Mexico

Sociedad de Historia Natural del Soconusco, Mexico

Fondo para la Biodiversidad (CONABIO), Mexico

Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA), Mexico

Instituto de Medio Ambiente y Comunidades Humanas, Universidad de Guadalajara

(IMACH), Mexico

Instituto para el Desarrollo Sustentable en Mesoamérica, AC. (IDESMAC), Mexico

Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda I.A.P., Mexico

Fundación de Mujeres de San Miguelito (FUMSAMI), Nicaragua

Universidad del Norte de Nicaragua (UNN), Nicaragua

Asociación Club Jóvenes Ambientalistas (ACJA), Nicaragua

Asociación de Cooperación Rural en África y América Latina (ACRA), Nicaragua

Asociación Centro de Estudios y Acción Social Panameño (CEASPA), Panama

Sociedad Audubon de Panamá (SAP), Panama

Fundación Smithsonian de Panamá (FSP), Panama

Centro de Estudios para el Medio Ambiente y el Desarrollo (CEMAD), Panama

Centro para la Conservación y Ecodesarrollo de la Bahía Samaná y Entorno (CEBSE), Dominican

Republic

Fundación para el Mejoramiento Humano (PROGRESSIO), Dominican Republic