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Dec 17, 2009

CJ also gives D.O.E deadline to monitor Chalillo and Macal

Story PictureSpeednet is not the only organization that has had to return to the court to get compliance. Almost like a case of déjà vu, a grass roots association from Cayo also had to make another trip to the chambers of Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh to have a judgment enforced. As in the case with Speednet, the C.J. also put a time limit on the offender. Back in 2008, The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) launched an offensive case against the Department of Environment to enforce laws that it felt that BECOL, the owner of the Chalillo dam, was not complying with. BELPO won the case in September 2008, in which it suggested that many of the more than two hundred terms in the Environmental Compliance Plan had been ignored by BECOL and the Department of the Environment, BELPO’s president and Cayo resident Candy Gonzalez was concerned about the lack of mercury level testing in the Macal River; water quality analysis; and limited public awareness of the exit plan for residents in case of a dam break. This afternoon, Gonzalez said, via phone from Cayo, that she hopes this time the D.O.E. will clamp down on BECOL.

Candy Gonzalez, President, BELPO
“The particular areas that we were concerned about was that people weren’t aware of the amount of mercury in fish that they eat and that it be tested on a regular basis and people are informed as to the harm mercury can do to the body, especially children and pregnant women. That water quality be tested and people informed and of great importance, was that we still had no dam break or early warning system set up in the downstream communities of the Chalillo Dam.”

Jose Sanchez
“How many people live downstream?”

Candy Gonzalez
“If you just want to stop at villages at the beginning of the Belize River, you can say about eighteen or nineteen thousand, but as the release of the sedimentation in August of this year showed that really the damn has an affect all the way to Belize City, because the sedimentation that was released from the damn reached all the way to the Caribbean sea. The judge set out specific time limits, which he didn’t do in the first decision. So it’s not just a matter of them saying we’re going to get around to it; he set out limits like the emergency preparedness plan be put in the libraries in Santa Elena and San Ignacio and with the Village Council of Cristo Rey and that that be done within two weeks of the ruling, that the fish be tested and that people be made aware of the amount of mercury and that that be an ongoing thing. And he gave limits in terms of when things like that should be done.”

During the case, Gonzalez appeared on the behalf of BELPO, while
Senior counsel Michael Young appeared on the behalf of BECOL. Crown Counsel Pricilla Banner represented the Department of the Environment.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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