Barro Blanco dam, Panama

Panamese government ordered a hold on the Dam project for violating the EIA on Feb 10th 2015 after many years of opposition by the Movimiento 10 de Abril and the Ngöbe-Bugle communities


Description
In 1981 the very first dam project on the river, Tabasara I, was meant to supply energy to the Cerro Colorado copper mine. This project was ultimately canceled after being rejected by the local community. In 2007 the dam concession was given to Honduran-owned Generadora del Istmo, SA (GENISA) and renamed the Barro Blanco dam project – the current developer and project name. In 2008 GENISA took a stab at local consultation – they consulted a non-Indigenous town near the affected area. Later, the Environmental Impact Study of the project was approved, GENISA began to apply for carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism established under the Kyoto Protocol. The Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Project (PHBB) works are located in the districts of Veladero and Bella Vista, District Tole, Province of Chiriqui and use the waters of Tabasará to generate electrical energy, with a power generating plant with an installed capacity of 28.56 MW and a mean annual generation of 124.83 GWh, with a 258-hectare reservoir. The Ngäbe Bugle (or Ngöbe-Bugle), the largest indigenous peoples group of Panama, took to the streets on February 2012 to demand that all concessions granted without their approval be cancelled, including those for the controversial Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Power Plant Project. The Ngäbe population, the largest indigenous peoples group of Panama, some of them live on the Tabasara's riverside. There was peaceful resistance against the Barro Blanco dam. The project violates the laws that define the Ngäbe-bugle's regional territories, water rights and the self-determination of indigenous people the Tabasara. These protests, which blocked the Pan-American Highway for over a week, stemmed from the refusal of legislators to include article 5 of the proposed law 415 –as previously agreed upon– to prohibit all mining and hydroelectric concessions within the region of the Ngäbe Bugle. Violent repression by President Martinelli against the peaceful Ngäbe protests left three of them dead (Jerónimo Rodríguez Tugrí) and more than a hundred wounded. Communications were cut and human rights were severely violated. Adults and minors had been wounded. In March 23, 2012 a Ngäbe indigenous Panamanian, Onesimo Rodriguez, opposing the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam project was killed. Local environmentalist and indigenous protests against the Dutch and German supported dam have re-started in recent weeks, as the project has continued despite a long-awaited United Nations report finding in favor of the indigenous community on the illegality of the dam. Already construction has advanced far enough to raise the water level of the Tabasara River, threatening to flood Ngäbe lands and villages when expected rains arrive in three months. These same communities will be drowned beneath a 258 hectare reservoir if the dam is completed. Peace negotiations between the government and the Ngäbe Bugle have since occurred. A compromise agreement between the two parties has resulted in the passing of Special Law 11, in force since April 2012. This new law cancels mining concessions and prohibits future mining. It also states that any future hydroelectric projects the government plans in the territory must be subject to approval by indigenous authorities and a referendum of the area’s residents. The Ngäbe Bugle people are to receive 5% of the projects annual billing as well. However, the contentious Barro Blanco dam will go ahead. The indigenous population living by forest agriculture and fishing will be displaced. As well as destroying forest and villages, the reservoir will drown boulders covered with petroglyphs important to the Ngäbe culture. They may be forced to move to relocation camps or urban areas to seek employment, which may result in cultural erosion, loss of language, and more.
Basic Data
NameBarro Blanco dam, Panama
CountryPanama
ProvinceDistrito de Tolé, Provincia de Chiriquí
SiteVeladero and Bella Vista
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
REDD/CDM
Deforestation
Specific CommoditiesLand
Electricity
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Project (PHBB) consists of the use of hydraulic Tabasará river waters, Chiriqui Province, to provide a power generating plant with an installed capacity of 28.56 MW​​ and a mean annual generation of 124.83 GWh, with a 258-hectare reservoir.
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Project Area (in hectares)300
Level of Investment (in USD)78,300,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population540
Start Date2007
Company Names or State EnterprisesGeneradora del Istmo, S.A. (GENISA) from Panama - Owner
Hidráulica San José, S.A
Relevant government actorsAutoridad Nacional de los Servicios Públicos (ASEP), la Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, la Policía Nacional y otros organismos de seguridad, Órgano Ejecutivo, Comisión Permanente de Comercio y Asuntos Económicos, Presidencia de la República
International and Financial InstitutionsInteramerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)
Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) from Netherlands - Finance
German Investment Corporation (DEG) from Germany - Finance
Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE)
United Nations Human Rights Council (UN) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersMovimiento 10 de Abril ((organización comunitaria de base de afectados por el proyecto Barro Blanco, agrupa población indígena y campesina), las autoridades tradicionales de la Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, la Coordinadora para la Defensa de los Recursos Naturales y los Derechos del Pueblo Ngäbe Buglé y Campesino, Colectivo Voces Ecológicas (COVEC), Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas de Panamá (CONAMUIP), Alianza Ciudadana Pro Justicia/Centro de Estudios y Acción Social Panameño (CEASPA), Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM), Comisión de Justicia y Paz, Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Construcción y Similares (SUNTRACS), Iglesia Católica, Universidad de Panamá
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Religious groups
Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Fishermen
Trade unions
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Women
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Property damage/arson
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Blockades
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Strikes
Official complaint letters and petitions
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime
OtherViolaciones de varios Derechos: de los Pueblos Indígenas, a la salud, protección a personas con discapacidad, la niñez y la adolescencia, debido proceso/tutela judicial efectiva, igualdad ante la ley/no discriminación, propiedad privada, circulación, libertad personal, integridad sexual de la mujer, integridad personal, vida, inviolabilidad de las comunicaciones privadas, libertad de expresión, suspensión de las garantías
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Deaths
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Migration/displacement
New legislation
Repression
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesSe cumpla la Ley 10 de 1997, mediante la cual se crea la Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé. Esta ley reconoce las autoridades o instituciones étnico-culturales, y la existencia del Congreso General, y los Congresos Regionales y Locales.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The Barro Blanco Dam located in Province of Chiriqui use the waters of Tabasará to generate electrical energy, with a power generating plant with an installed capacity of 28.56 MW with a 258-hectare reservoir.

The Ngäbe population lives on the Tabasara's riverside leads of peaceful resistance from February 2 2012 against Blanco dam, but after the Goverment’s repression and a former agreement the contentious Barro Blanco dam will go ahead.

The project violates the laws that define the Ngäbe-bugle's regional territories, water rights and the self-determination of indigenous people the Tabasara.

April 2014, "Ngäbe-bugle's families are concerned about their future if the dam is built. Yet they never had a chance to raise these concerns to their government, even though international law prohibits forced relocation of indigenous peoples without their consent. The Panamanian government approved the Barro Blanco project without consulting these Ngöbe communities".
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Ley 10 de 1997, mediante la cual se crea la Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé. Esta ley reconoce las autoridades o instituciones étnico-culturales, y la existencia del Congreso General, y los Congresos Regionales y Locales.

Ley 30 de 2010

Ley 8 de 2011, mediante reformó el Código de Recursos Minerales, permitiendo, entre otras cosas, la inversión extranjera directa en el sector minero panameño, por parte de empresas propiedad de Estados extranjeros, contrariando así lo dispuesto por el artículo 3 de la Constitución

Proyecto de Ley 394, que modifica el Código de Recursos Minerale, aprobado en primer debate por la Comisión Permanente de Comercio y Asuntos Económicos, incluyendo una reforma al artículo 4 de dichocódigo, que abriría nuevamente las puertas a la inversión extranjera directa en el
sector minero panameño, por parte de empresas propiedad de Estados extranjeros, y desconoce el Acuerdo de San Félix firmado el 27 de febrero de 2011 entre el gobierno y la Coordinadora por la Defensa de los Recursos Naturales y
Derechos del Pueblo Ngäbe, Buglé y Campesino

References

Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas de Panamá (CONAMUIP), Alianza Ciudadana Pro Justicia/Centro de Estudios y Acción Social Panameño (CEASPA), Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM), Comisión de Justicia y Paz, 2012, Informe de gira de observación de derechos humanos luego de las protestas contra la minería e hidroeléctricas en la comarca Ngäbe-Buglé y en las provincias de Chiriquí y Veraguas
[click to view]

Colectivo Voces Ecológicas (COVEC), 2013, Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Barro Blanco: Impacto sobre los pueblos indígenas y problemas de derechos humanos
[click to view]

Links

Panama America, 2013, Informe de la ONU ha causado revuelo en dirigencia indígena
[click to view]

Carbon Market Watch, Barro Blanco – Large hydro project, Panama
[click to view]

Mongabay, Carbon Market Indigenous protester killed by masked assailants in Panama over UN-condemned dam
[click to view]

La Prensa, Indígenas acusan a la Policía de muerte de menor en Las Lomas
[click to view]

Univision Noticias, Violento desalojo de bloqueos deja un muerto y 32 heridos en Panamá
[click to view]

La Prensa, Lacunza cuenta lo que pasó
[click to view]

Carbon Market Watch, El proyecto MDL Barro Blanco – obstáculo para la paz
[click to view]

La Prensa, Hidroeléctricas en la comarca
[click to view]

First Peoples World Wide, 2013, Ignoring FPIC Leads to 30 Years of Protest, Violence, and Profit-Loss in Panama
[click to view]

Genisa, Barro Blanco
[click to view]

Both ENDS, 2013, Will UN-rapporteur Anaya investigate Barro Blanco dam in Panama?
[click to view]

nternational Rivers, 2013, Chronology of Events for Barro Blanco Dam (Panama)
[click to view]

Earth Justice, 2013, Challenging a Panamanian Dam Project for Violating Indigenous Rights
[click to view]

Earth Justice, 2014, Urgency Grows in Panama as Dam Building Continues
[click to view]

Earth Justice, 2014, Groups Appeal to UN to Halt Imminent Forced Evictions of Indigenous Ngöbe Families
[click to view]

Banktrack, 2014, Barro Blanco dam project
[click to view]

La Estrella de Panama, 2012, Agente que sacó arma de fuego sometido a Junta Disciplinaria
[click to view]

Both ENDS, 2014, Parliamentary questions about the construction of the Barro Blanco Dam in Panama
[click to view]

Otramerica - Barro Blanco, cuando la tenacidad para los megaproyectos
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protests by Movimiento 10 de Abril by the bridge on Tabasara river Source: http://ngabe-bugle.blogspot.com.es/2013/01/proyecto-hidroelectrico-barro-blanco-y.html
[click to view]

Other CommentsThis is a conflict with the Ngäle-Bugle, also spelled Ngöbe-Bugle
Meta Information
ContributorDaniela Del Bene, JMA y TW
Last update15/03/2016
Comments