Summary: Panama suspends construction of Barro Blanco dam over non-compliance with environmental and human rights assessment

Panama City, 10th February 2015: Panama’s National Environmental Authority (ANAM) has temporarily suspended the construction of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam over non-compliance with its Environmental Impact Assessment. The dam was approved by the UN Clean Development Mechanism despite risks of flooding to the territory of the indigenous Ngäbe Buglé communities.

SRT grantees the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) have been providing legal support and working with local partners to bring attention to the human rights violations associated with the case.

ANAM’s decision was triggered by an administrative investigation that found failures including shortcomings in the agreements with affected indigenous communities, inadequate negotiation processes, the absence of a management plan for the protection of rock engravings and other archaeological findings, repeated failures to manage sedimentation and erosion, poor waste management, and logging without permission.

Alyssa Johl, Senior Attorney at CIEL, said, “Panama has taken a critical first step toward protecting the rights of the Ngäbe communities, which have not been adequately consulted on the Barro Blanco project. But much more work is needed. As an urgent matter, Panama should recognize its obligations to protect human rights in climate actions, such as Barro Blanco, by supporting the call for human rights protections in the UN climate regime.”

Maria Jose Veramendi Villa, Senior Attorney at AIDA, said, “Any dialogue between the affected communities, the Government and the company has to be transparent, in good faith, respectful of the communities’ rights, and include guarantees so that the communities can participate equally and the agreements are fully respected. In this dialogue, the State must take into account all human rights violations that have been denounced by the communities since the project was approved.”

Full press release from AIDA’s website:

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