Chalillo could Flood Mayan Ruins

The proposed Chalillo Dam threatens to flood three important Mayan sites, the Department of Archeology confirmed this week.

A new discovery which is located some five kilometers from the site where the proposed water containment structure is to be built, could be submerged beneath the reservoir waters, acting Commissioner of Archaeology, George Thompson told Reporter on Tuesday.

Thompson said that the department will be meeting to discuss issues of concern and to get a united view on how to proceed with their concerns.

A Canadian Environmental Impact Study conducted in 1999, first reported the discovery. In a program aired on April 17 last year, Canadian television viewers saw for themselves the pyramids and temples which would be flooded if the new dam were to be built.

Reports from Canada are that a Canadian archeologist for National Geographic toured the site and reported it as a major discovery with major structures that may have once housed ancient kings.

"There is a need to preserve what was found, especially if a decision is made to go ahead with the construction of the dam, and Belize Electricity Limited is aware of this," a BEL spokesperson said. The spokesperson admitted the discovery was first reported in a study conducted by a commission in 1999. The utility company is now awaiting the findings of an environmental study which is in progress.

The National Environmental Appraisal Committee will consider the Department of Archaeology concerns along with other issues, the spokesperson told Reporter.

BEL and the government of Belize are engaged in a war of words with environmentalists over the proposed Chalillo Dam. "We encourage a healthy debate on the issue, but at the same time we do not appreciate deliberate efforts to discredit the company by saying that BEL is not doing their environmental homework," the BEL spokesperson said.

Prime Minister Said Musa and BEL have gone on record commenting on the urgent need for another source of electricity to meet the demand.

Both the government of Belize and BEL are hoping that the result of the environmental impact study which is being done by AMEC will be favorable, so that the dam's construction may begin early next year.

Thompson told Reporter that the department will be focusing on whether excavation and further investigative studies need to be done and in what time frame.

BEL has insisted that it needs to generate its own electricity and prefers not to continue to rely on Mexico for electricity supply.