Environmentalists are mounting an international campaign against the proposed Chalillo dam on the Macal River in Belize, fearful that critical jungle habitat for tapirs, jaguars, and scarlet macaws could be lost. The dam project, which has the support of the Belize government, was first proposed in the early 1990s to wean the country from its dependence on electricity bought from Mexico and heavily polluting diesel-powered generators. Prime Minister Said Musa said, “We don’t think it is fair for these environmental groups to be beating up Belize over this little dam when their own countries have so many of them.” But opponents say the cost of building the new dam would be exorbitant, and they doubt the project would actually lower electricity rates. The U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council has placed the Macal on its list of ecologically significant areas around the world that are threatened by development.

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