Illegal Entry and Damages in BNR and CRFR caused Belize Hydroelectric $33,500

Article from Amandala Belize
Author: Adele Ramos (adelescribe@gmail.com)
Posted: 30 September 2009
Link:http://www.amandala.com.bz/index.php?id=9215

Chief Forestry Officer, Wilber Sabido, told Amandala yesterday,Wednesday, that the Belize Hydroelectric Development and Management Company Ltd. (BHD) had been levied a $32,000 charge for damages caused to the Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve when, as previously reported, workers of the company opened up several miles of road, and cleared camp sites and a helicopter landing pad without getting the required permit from the Forest Department.

Sabido said that the fine for entering the protected areas would have amounted to $1,500, in addition to the $32,000 in damages, and the company has agreed to pay all the costs. However, the company has paid only 50% of the levy and asked for 30 days to pay the balance.

Back in September, BHD had applied for a research permit, which the Forestry Department granted earlier this month, October—this even before the fine has been fully paid.

When we asked Sabido why the company has been granted the permit when there are still outstanding monies to be paid for damages, he said that the fact that BHD has applied for a research permit means “they are not trying to flee the country.”

This is a first for the Forest Department, said Sabido.

Ya’axché Conservation Trust (YCT), in an assessment detailed elsewhere in this newspaper, has indicated that based on its assessment, remediation works alone required to restore the damaged habitats are estimated at $125,000. The YCT additionally suggested other fines, but understands that it is the government that has the final say on the matter.

Sabido claimed, however, that the Department did not see the need to levy a heftier figure for remediation works because Belize’s forests are very resilient and regenerate very fast. He told Amandala that an officer of the Forest Department will accompany BHP workers on their research missions to monitor their activities.

He said that BHP’s research plan is to set gauges along the river to measure water flow.

The Hydrology Department, he said, has also been engaged and will continue to be involved in the process.

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