Maya Indian Urges Shareholder Activism Over Belize Dam Project

For Immediate Release

Grainne Ryder, Probe International

Tel: 416-964-9223

May 13, 2002 -- Maya Indian Eligorio Sho will join Canadian environmentalists in Newfoundland this week to urge Fortis shareholders to scrap their company's plans for a hydro scheme that would flood Belize's Macal River Valley.

''This dam will destroy my people's heritage,'' says Sho, a Maya descendent who researches the endangered Scarlet Macaw and discovered many of the ruins that would be inundated by Fortis' dam. ''If Fortis builds the dam, the ancient rainforest and the Maya sites in the river valley will be gone forever.''

Sho and other environmentalists, including Sierra Club's Elizabeth May and Newfoundland's political satirist Greg Malone, will gather outside the Fortis shareholder meeting scheduled for 11:00 AM on May 15th at the Holiday Inn in St. John's.

The coalition is also encouraging Fortis shareholders and other members of the public to attend an evening forum at 7:30 PM, Hampton Hall, Marine Institute, 156 Ridge Road, St. John's.

Conne River MicMac chief Michel Joe will be on hand to welcome Sho who will speak about the threats posed by Fortis' dam to Maya heritage and the valley's rare and endangered wildlife.

A panel discussion will follow a screening of the National Geographic documentary, ''Paradise in Peril,'' which features Sho tracking the few remaining scarlet macaw in the Macal river valley.

Fortis Inc., a billion-dollar power and real estate firm traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, owns the company that wants to build the $45 million Chalillo dam, which Fortis President and CEO Stanley Marshall has said that his company was ready to start building this January but construction has been stalled since February when environmental and tourism groups in Belize filed two lawsuits challenging the hydro deal.

This is the second year in a row that environmentalists have targeted the Fortis shareholder meeting in St. John's. Earlier this year, Greg Malone presented the company with thirty-thousand no-dam petitions collected on the coalition's web site. ''Fortis could not get away with building such a wildly uneconomic dam in Newfoundland so we have a special obligation to help Belizeans stop Fortis in their country.'' says Malone, who in led a successful campaign to prevent Fortis' takeover of Newfoundland's hydro assets.

The coalition to save the Macal River Valley includes Belizean conservation groups, Toronto-based Probe International, Sierra Club of Canada, and Newfoundland's Humber Environment Action Group.


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