Controversy sparked around Belize nature reserve

FFI’s Belizean partner Ya’axche Conservation Trust (Ya’axche) has been mobilizing local people to speak out against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Bladen Nature Reserve.

Ya’axche is in charge of managing and protecting the reserve, which contains important Mesoamerican rainforest with many threatened species. A dam would be hugely damaging to both the forest and local villagers who rely on the water and forest resources.

After local tips, Ya’axche rangers discovered a road and cleared area inside the reserve, both of which were illegal as the reserve is designated under the strictest level of protection.

They soon found out that the Prime Minister Dean Barrow had signed the concession agreement to Belize Hydroelectric Development & Management Company Limited in 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, Ya’axche’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.”

“According to the Chief Forest Officer, a cease and desist order has been sent to the company until appropriate monitoring of the hydrological studies can occur,” said Nathaniel Miller, Ya’axche’s Protected Areas Manager.

Ya’axche will be conducting both an ecological survey of the area and a social study with the buffering communities to allow for a more honest debate about the development.

They are seriously considering taking the Government to the Supreme Court for an injunction if the activities inside Bladen Nature Reserve are allowed to proceed. They believe it is “a complete disregard for the Laws of Belize, specifically the National Parks Systems Act.”

FFI is proud to be working with such a determined and passionate organisation as Ya’axche. Our partnership over ten years has shown that they are not afraid to fight on the frontline of conservation. We will continue to support them in whatever way we can.

Check out Ya’axche’s blog for more updates on the situation:

Above: “Saving Paradise” – Ya’axche video part 1.

“Saving Paradise” – Ya’axche video part 2 on YouTube.

“Saving Paradise” – Ya’axche video part 3 on YouTube.