Wildlife, Environmental Impact Assessments, Forests
This decision related to a previous decision on the same matter. BECOL, a Belizean company, was proposing to construct and operate the Macal River Upstream Storage Facility. The facility would include a dam and associated infrastructure on the Macal River to produce electricity and provide upstream storage capacity for an existing power plant. The proposed dam project was within the southern portion of a forest reserve and the northern part of a National Park. It was admitted that there would be potential loss of habitat and resulting wildlife impacts. BECOL prepared an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and the Department of Environment granted environmental clearance to BECOL. The EIA was criticized by the appellant as being incomplete and deficient, in particular because of the need for further investigations in four important areas: Geology (as affecting the design and construction of the dam); hydrology (including the impact on downstream settlements); flora and fauna; and archaeological sites. Apart from that, the appellant complained about the failure of the Department of Environment to hold direct a public hearing. The applicant asked the Privy Council to preserve the subject-matter of the appeal by ordering a halt in the construction works. Large swathes of forest had already been felled in the vicinity of the dam, and heavy vehicles and about 300 workers were working on site. The courts below had rejected the attack on the EIA. It was directed that a public hearing had to be held, but the decisions of the Department of Environment were not quashed. The Privy Council emphasized that a preliminary injunction would cause a delay of several months, with about 300 men and large quantities of vehicles and plant already on site. This would be bound to cause severe disruption and significant loss. It may be that any loss would fall on the Government of Belize rather than on BECOL. A public hearing had been held in the meantime and the Department of Environment had taken account of the objections and representations made at the hearing. The Privy Council concluded that the grant of an injunction at this stage would entail a greater risk of ultimate injustice than its refusal. Although BECOL was in the private sector, it was very closely associated in this matter with the government of Belize and there were public interests of real importance on both sides of the argument. Both courts below had rejected the challenge to the project. Their reasoning and conclusions had not been shown to have been ill-founded. It would not be right to halt a major project which was of real importance to the economy of Belize. An injunction restraining further work on the project until the hearing of the appeal was therefore not granted.