Protests escalating against dams in Panama

Protests escalating against dams in Panama

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John Ahni Schertow
January 11, 2008
 

Earlier this week, there were confrontations between police officers and indigenous People in Panama who are opposed to the development of a hydroelectric dam on the Cobre River. On Saturday, about 250 demonstrators closed the Pan-American highway, but were suppressed half an hour later and attacked with tear gas by the National Police.

This was to-be-expected, but as Larrissa Duarte, a spokesperson from the Movement in Defense of the Cobre River, said to La Prensa, they have been carrying out peaceful protests for the past five years, and a lack of response has now prompted them to take “more extreme measures”. Duarte also said the people will continue to defend Cobre River and will not allow the dam to be built in their waters.

This dam is far from the only one that is opposed. As the biodiversity activist website explains, right now there are more than 390 dams on table – all of which are a part of a massive hydropower development scheme that aims to industrialize Mesoamerica in the name of free trade.

As previously noted on Intercontinental Cry, two of those projects are also threatening the Naso and Ngobe People. The Bonyic would drastically alter the lives and territory of the Naso–causing deforestation, decrease the water and air quality as well as in animal populations; and it would most definitely bring an influx of settlers and future development. The Changuinola project has similar consequences. It would displace thousands of Ngobe and create a 3,500-acre lake in a wilderness area bordering Central America’s largest tract of virgin rain forest.

Like those effected by the dam on the Rio Cobre, both the Ngobe and Naso are opposed to the dams, and continue working to abolish their development.

Further Information
To learn more about the Changuinola project, have a read of Cultural Survival’s report “Dam Nation” (pdf). Or, head over to this campaign page on actionnetwork.org for general information and to sign a petition of opposition to these dams.

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