Posts Tagged BHD

REA of Central River

 

Campbell's Rainforest Frog

In February 2010, an assessment team was sent to Central River to document ecological findings. Ya’axché is very grateful for the participation of Ya’axché volunteers, Forest Department, Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve Committee and Belize Defence Force.

After two field trips to Central River led by Paul Walker and Melissa Medina we have completed a REA of Central River which is avaible on our website.  If you would like to read or download the document please visit www.yct.bz.

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CJ gives Ya’axche green light for judicial review of Toledo hydro permit

The following article is an extract form
Amandala.bz
Author: Adele Ramos
Email: adelescribe@gmail.com
Date: 19/02/2010

On Wednesday afternoon Chief Justice Dr. Abdulai Conteh gave Ya’axche Conservation Trust (YCT), the co-manager of the Bladen Nature Reserve, permission for a judicial review of a decision by the Forest Department to issue a research permit to a hydro-development company to undertake preliminary studies inside the Bladen Nature Reserve and the Colombia River Forest Reserve.

 

YCT’s executive director Lisel Alamilla has contended that the permit is not really a research permit, since it was granted to a company scoping the area with an eye to pursuing further hydro development on the Rio Grande.

 

The company in question, Belize Hydroelectric Development & Management Company Limited (BHD), has an existing dam, the Hydro Maya dam, in the area.

 

Toledo villagers had complained to YCT back in July that workers of the hydro company had cleared portions of both the Colombia Forest Reserve and the Bladen Nature Reserve without having gotten the required approval, respectively from the Forestry Department and the Department of the Environment.

An official assessment by YCT and Government officials confirmed the reports and also led to the discovery of a helicopter landing site. This week YCT reported that there have been a total of four helicopter landing sites in the area.

 

The total damage, as assessed by YCT, is $125,000, which Alamilla informed would include charges for remediation works required to restore the damaged habitats.

Last October the Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido informed us that the Department was also fining the company $1,500, in addition to the $32,000 in damages.

 

In response to challenges by YCT, on Thursday, January 7, the Forest Department issued a cease and desist order to BHD.

 

Sabido told us Wednesday, while outside of court, that the order remains in effect. He said that the department had done an assessment over the weekend, and that report will be reviewed with all parties, including officials of his department, BHD and YCT. The cease and desist order remains in effect until then, so there is no need for a court injunction against BHD, Alamilla explained. 

YCT contends that granting the BHD a permit under the concession agreement, signed by Prime Minister Dean Barrow back in December 2008, amounts to a violation of the National Parks Systems Act, and is contrary to the intended purpose of a nature reserve.

 

In the substantive case, set to go before the court on May 6, YCT’s attorney Magali Marin is expected to argue that point, as well as ask for BHD to pay the $125,000 that YCT has assessed for damages within the protected area.

 

Broader issues may also be fleshed out, such as questions over the authority of the Chief Forest Officer to issue the research permit to BHD, the purpose of a nature reserve, and who is really responsible for administrating it.

 

The court case is against the Forest Department and the Attorney General of Belize; however, Dr. Conteh has asked that BHD, being an affected party, be invited to join the suit as an interested party.

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Battle in Bladen Going to Supreme COurt

The following article is an extract from 7newsbelize.com
Date: 27th January 2010

There’s a battle brewing in the Bladen Nature Reserve in the Toledo District where its conservationists versus developers who are investigating the possibility of erecting a dam, reportedly on the Central River – which is a headwater source for many bodies of fresh water in the deep south.

And while the fight so far has been contained to Toledo, it is coming to Belize City – specifically to the Supreme Court. 7News has learned that the Yaxche Conservation Trust which co-manages the Bladen Nature reserve is in the process of filing a request for judicial review of a permit given to Belize Hydroelectric Development & Management Company Limited to conduct research in Bladen. The judicial review filing was finalized this evening and should be lodged by tomorrow. IT argues that the research permit government granted to the Hydroelectric Development & Management Company was in violation of the terms of a nature reserve – which only permits research based on ecology, not for development purposes.

Yaxche says it is only doing this to preserve its legal position – but whatever the case it is a clear shot across the Government’s bow – which issued the permit. But before the permit was issued the hydro company went into this core conservation area with no official permission and started research – which meant clearing areas, m making trials and marking trees and rocks. That’s illegal – and under pressure from Yaxche – the forestry Department fined the company thirty-two thousand dollars. But fine or not – sections of the communities connected to Bladen and the Central River are outraged and concerned.

Those sentiments were captured in a documentary commissioned by Yaxche. It is 30 minutes long and offers a compelling insight into the community based issues – and more than that serves up a classic gotcha moment of Area Rep Juan Coy. Here are those excerpts.

Zenovia Requena, Resident – San Pedro Colombia
“Me I travel night and day in this river and I want no dam in this river because we drink the water, we have nowhere else to drink water. We have nothing more but this river. All the villages them drink water from this river. It is over a thousand people that drink water from this river; Crico Jute, San Jose, Pueblo Viejo, Nah Lun Kan, and this Rio Blanco – all those people back of those villages drink from the river because the river has a lot of branches, a lot of veins which run to meet up with the other rivers and that is why this will mess up whole of the place and with this river they should do nothing, nothing at all because that will affect this river bad.”

Question,
“What will happen if the water level goes down?”

Zenovia Requena,
“It will get dry and where will we go and get water.”

Interviewer,
“We are saying this concession agreement is directly under your jurisdiction, you are the Area Rep. of Toledo West. This concession agreement was signed by the Hon. Dean Barrow on December 5th 2008.”

Hon. Juan Coye, Toledo West Area Rep.
“With regards to the concession agreement, I don’t have any idea about that.”

Interviewer,
“Do you have a copy of the document?”

Hon. Juan Coye,
“Where I saw a copy of the document was when Yaxche was doing a presentation at a public meeting at the school.”

Interviewer,
“And so you are saying that you did not know anything about the concession agreement?”

Hon. Juan Coye,
“No.”

Interviewer,
“Were you consulted about the concession agreement, were you asked for your opinion?”

Hon. Juan Coye,
“Not at all. Let me say that the Prime Minister in his capacity has all authority; likewise the Minister of Natural Resources. It is true to the extent that it is my jurisdiction but these are people who have the final say.”

Narrator,
“A fact finding trip into the reserves was organized by a village committee of San Pedro Colombia in connection with Yaxche, the co-manager of Bladen Forest Reserve and the Belize Defense Force.”

Man,
“Basically it is an educational field trip that the committee has embarked on. Presently we are in the upper Esperanza River, we’ve gone up several kilometers from here heading up into the headwaters and encountered at least seven major waterfalls.

We found out from one of the persons that was actually guarding one of the developers’ camp that there is presently a number of about ten workers that are conducting the research work on the Esperanza River. As Mr. Cruz said we managed to get up to number 52 and obviously at that point we found that there was recent trafficking in terms of human footprints.”

Michael Cus,
“The human trafficking here is very high observed mainly through horsetracks in the area and the presence of human can clearly be seen due to the many trails within the jungle itself caused by xateros hunting for xatero leaves. Hunting I believe is very common in the area by the xateros. It is quite hard to say what type of animals are being hunted but I have seen feathers along the route and also expended cartridges, 20 gauge and what not expended shells along the road. I noticed during the entire route I didn’t see any major game animal such as wild peccary or deer or at least ocelot, I didn’t see anything or a little margot, no sign of wildlife. Last night we found a xateros camp with three xateros. Yesterday when we got to Bladen Nature Reserve we observed seven animals in the area, grazing on the helipad next to the camp where the developers actually are camping.”

A few points. First, you saw Juan Coy flatly deny any knowledge of the concessions agreement – well three weeks ago Housing Minister Michael Finnegan said on his Lik Road talk show that was simply not true – that Coy did know. Second, while the hydroelectric company has been fined $32,000, our information suggests that the fine has not been paid. This evening, the Ministry of Natural Resources said we had called too late and the payment position on the fine could not be verified.

Third, we understand that subsequent to a meeting between conservation and community groups with the Minister of Natural Resources, reports say a stop order has been issued and the “research work has ceased for the time being. That is unconfirmed. Fourth, a commitment has reportedly been made for an investigation will be conducted with conservation and community groups and the Forestry Department.

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Toledo villagers: no concession, no research permit for BHD in nature reserve

This article is an extract
from The Amandala Newsletter
Date Posted: 08/01/2010 – 10:23 A.M.
Author: Adele Ramos – adelescribe@gmail.com

A group of villagers from San Pedro Columbia Toledo, and the Ya’axche Conservation Trust (YCT), an NGO wich co-manages the Bladen Nature Reserve of Toledo with the Forestry Department, continue their calls to the Government of Belize to revoke both the concession given to Belize Hydroelectric Development & Management Company Limited (BHD) back in 2008 to develop the hydro electricity potential of the Rio Grande basin, and the permit for research awarded in 2009.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow signed the concession agreement on December 5,2008, granting it for 15 years with possible 10-year extension.

“It is very concerning that we would even contemplate a dam in a nature reserve,” said Lisel Alamilla, YCT’s executive director. “It brings to question the commitment to the protected areas of Belize. If you are willing to continue this, then really, there are no sacred cows.”

She told us that YCT is prepared to go to the Supreme Court for an injunction if the activities inside Bladen Nature Reserve are allowed to proceed, because it is the view of the NGO that allowing research activities in the reserve under a development concession demonstrates “a complete disregard for the Laws of Belize, specifically the National Parks Systems Act.

Alamilla visited Amandala today along with Michael Cus, secretary of the committee set up by area residents to investigate the works being done by BHD in Toledo. Also present were Bartolo Teul of YCT, who lives in Big Falls, Toledo; Stephanie Lara, villagers of San Pedro Columbia and committee member; and Nicanor Requeña, chairperson of the committee.

“We don’t want it,” said Requeña, saying that people living around the area of San Miguel, where the Hydro Maya dam is located, are already feeling the negative effects.

Requeña said that the Central River goes underground and them comes back to surface as the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande watershed that BHD has concession for, said Requeña, is the mother source of the freshwater in the area.

“We want to make sure we have water 10 years from now,” he added.

The nature reserve, said Alamilla, is the strictest form of safeguard for protected areas in Belize. The law, she added, only permits research inside a nature reserve for ecological purposes that would serve the interests of the reserve, and not for development projects.

Requeña said that base on the terms of the concession agreement, BHD is in the development stage of operations, which includes the hydrology studies they claim they are now conducting.

The group had met Wednesday with Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, who is the minister with responsibility for Natural Resources and the Environment, as well as Chief Forest Officer, Wilber Sabido.

The Minister promised an assessment, but didn’t commit to anything , the group reported.

They also told us that Sabido promised to put a cease-an-desist order on BHD until the assessment is complete. (Despite numerous calls to Sabido’s office today, Amandala was unable to speak to him to find out if the order has been issued and implemented.)

Alamilla explained that Bladen Nature Reserve is the greatest of the three nature reserves in Belize; the others two being the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve in Cayo and the Burton Canal Nature Reserve behind the Belama area of Belize City.

Allowing development inside Bladen, she said, leaves the already overexploited area “wide open” to further incursions by Guatemalan xatéros and other illegal activities.

BHD was fined last year for illegally commencing work in the protected area, as well as the adjacent Columbia River Forest Reserve, including bulldozing a road inside the protected areas.

The team told us that a subsequent assessment had revealed that personnel working for the company had opened up a total of 16 miles of road, some of it an old road that had been re-colonized by forest.

If it was “only a research,” the team questioned, why bring in a bulldozer?

“If they were not caught, they would have continued,” Requeña said.

He told us that the greatest concern of Toledo villagers is the health of the rivers, on which they depend to sustain them. The area is home to species that internationally are threatened, including some amphibians.

“Why give the concession agreement in the first place?” questioned Batolo Teul.

Teul said that while the residents of Toledo have been quiet in the past, a new attitude of activism is emerging, and they won’t be quiet any more.

They are concerned that xatéros continue to illegally exploit the area, and more will come with the newly expanded access created by BHD personnel to the protected areas.

Requeña said that while they were on their visit of the research sites in early December, they found xatéros and overworked horses, some of them dead, illegally occupying the protected area.

One of the xatéros they came across indicated that he had worked in Chiquibul, Cayo, and that area is largely decimated of xaté plants; hence he was now working down south. The xatéros indicated that within 5 years, there would be no more xate to take from Belize’s forests, Requeña recounted.

He exclaimed that they know Belize’s forests so well, that they have an idea how long it will take to reap all the xate leaves.

For xate extraction to be sustainable, the team explained, only two leaves should be drawn from a plant per year. However, xatéros take as many leaves as are there, because if they don’t make their bundles of 200 leaves, the purchasers, such as on operating out of Monte los Olivos, Guatemala, will not take them. Evidence of this, said Requeña, was seen when a xatéros left behind a bundle of 150 leaves, because it was short of 50 and he would not be able to sell it.

The continued loss of Belize’s forestry resources, including its prized woods, are seen by the group as one of the many costs that could come from opening access and bringing hydro development to Toledo.

Alamilla told Amandala that the NGO has already gotten legal opinion, and if government does nothing, is ready to go to court for an infunction to stop what they believe is illegal under the National Parks Systems Act.

“We have a deadline by which we need to file an injunction,” she expresses, emphasizing that they prefer to avoid going to court over the matter.

The group also indicated that while the claim is, that the projects are being undertaken to provide hydro power for Belize, they suspect that a land grab could be the wider motive, because initially, they had received reports that BHD would get 25 acres of community land at San Miguel to facilitate its project, but that figure had once ballooned to 500 acres. They claim that they do know how much acreage was finally awarded to the company.

If that could have happened with community lands, they say, imagine what would happen in this new development that involves Crown Lands in protected areas.

Bladen Nature Reserve comprises 99,782 acres, while the Columbia River Forest Reserve, a adjacent protected area in Toledo, comprises 148,303 acres.

Later on this month, the committee, which is producing a documentary, plans to do another assessment of the research area, and they will hold a community meeting subsequent to inform area residents of their findings.

Among those slated to attend is Candy Gonzales, environmental activist and lawyer known for advocacy against the dams on the Macal and their adverse environmental effects – most recently the ugly siltation of the Macal and Belize Rivers that lasted several weeks.

The committee says that anyone wishing to contribute their expertise to the cause can call the secretary, Michael Cus, at 626-8227 or email him at cmichaelngelo@yahoo.com.

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