Quantcast

Defending Indigenous Rights Against Dam Project in Panama

Climate

Earthjustice

Civil society organizations filed an amicus brief last week in Panama’s Supreme Court of Justice in support of a challenge by indigenous people to the environmental review of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Supporting a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Advocacy Center, Panamá (CIAM), the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and Earthjustice argue that the Panamanian government violated international law by approving the project without adequately consulting or obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of the affected Ngӓbe-Buglé indigenous peoples, and without adequately reviewing the environmental impacts to their lands.

“Our lands and natural resources are the most important aspects of our culture, and we wish to thank the international organizations that are supporting our struggle to protect them,” said Goejet Miranda, President of a Ngäbe community movement to defend the Tabasará River from development projects.

Once completed, the dam is projected to flood homes and religious, archaeological and cultural sites in the Ngӓbe-Buglé territories. The Barro Blanco dam will transform the Tabasará River from a vibrant source of food and water into a stagnant lake ecosystem, and will lead to the forced relocation of several families. Following a visit with indigenous communities in Panama last month, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya concluded that the government should have ensured adequate consultation with the Ngäbe people before authorizing the project.

“Indigenous people have special protections under international law,” said CIEL senior attorney Alyssa Johl. “And in the case of Barro Blanco, Panama violated international law by ignoring the Ngäbe peoples’ rights to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent, which require states to ensure that indigenous peoples are actively engaged in, and take ownership of, decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods.”

The amicus supports CIAM’s lawsuit seeking to nullify the resolution that approved the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) and to suspend construction of the dam until an adequate EIA has been conducted. “Given Panama’s international human rights obligations,” explained AIDA senior attorney Maria José Veramendi, “we expect that the Court will rule in favor of the affected Ngäbe people, strengthening the protection of indigenous communities with respect to development projects in Panamá and contributing to the development of a strong and coherent jurisprudence on the issues of human rights and the environment in the region.”

The Barro Blanco project has also received criticism related to its registration under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a carbon-offsetting scheme established under the Kyoto Protocol. In theory, the CDM—with its dual objectives of reducing carbon emissions and achieving sustainable development—could be a valuable tool in the fight against climate change. However, among other problems, the CDM fails to ensure that its projects do not violate human rights.

“Mechanisms to address climate change should do more than provide economic benefit for the companies developing the projects,” said Earthjustice attorney Abby Rubinson. “They must ensure protection of human rights and equitable solutions on the ground.”

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY and CLIMATE CHANGE pages for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Dakota Access pipeline being built in Iowa. Carl Wycoff / CC BY 2.0

The fight between the Standing Rock Sioux and the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline is back on, as the tribe opposes a pipeline expansion that it argues would increase the risk of an oil spill.

Read More Show Less
Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less