The heavily contested hydro power project Barro Blanco, approved under the UN offsetting scheme, continues to impede ongoing peace talks between the Panamanian government and the indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé people over a law banning mining and hydroelectric projects in indigenous territories. Environmental groups around the world call for a withdrawal of the concession for Barro Blanco and a suspension from the carbon offsetting scheme. They also call on banks and companies to immediately freeze their support to the project.
The forests along the river Tabasará are
negatively affected by the heavily contested hydro
power project Barro Blanco regarding the indigenous
people who are living along the riverbanks.
Foto: Cortesía | Oscar Sogandares
Barro Blanco is a 28.84 MW hydroelectric CDM project on the river Tabasara. The project is being financed by European Banks from Germany (DEG) and the Netherlands (FMO) and was approved under the UN's offsetting scheme in June 2011 despite concerns about accuracy of the Environmental Impact Assessment and local stakeholder requirements. The water reservoir of the dam is expected to flood land belonging to the Comarca of the Ngöbe-Buglé - a semi-autonomous reservation owned and administered by Panama's indigenous Ngöbe and Buglé people. More than half a dozen townships along the riverbanks in Ngöbe-Buglé territory will be flooded and the livelihoods of some 5000 Ngöbe farmers who rely on the river for potable water, agriculture and fishing will be negatively and irrevocably impacted. Yet, the project developer Gensia has publicly made misleading claims that the flooded area will be smaller than it actually is and not impact the tribal communities.
UN must ensure impartial review Due to increasing clashes between the communities and the government, the United Nations is now facilitating the peace talks. The deadlock was brokered with an agreement to carry out a review of the project's disputed Environmental Impact Assessment.Due to increasing clashes between the communities and the government, the United Nations is now facilitating the peace talks. The deadlock was brokered with an agreement to carry out a review of the project's disputed Environmental Impact Assessment.
"The rights of the Ngöbe-Buglé are enshrined in Panama's Constitution and must be upheld by all projects affecting their territory, including by the Barro Blanco project. We call on all banks and companies involved in this project to suspend their support." commented Guadalupe Rodriguez from Salva la Selva.
On a surface of barely 75,000 km2 Panama has 30 CDM hydro projects with an installed capacity of 1804 MW in the pipeline of the UN's offsetting scheme. "If carbon offsetting projects violate the enshrined rights of indigenous peoples, the UNFCCC must act and restore trust in the UN" commented Eva Filzmoser from CDM Watch. "We call on the UNFCCC and the national authority ANAM to make sure that the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Barro Blanco project is thoroughly reviewed and the approval subsequently withdrawn."