NEWS: European lenders put pressure for Barro Blanco to go ahead
Barro Blanco – a CDM approved hydro dam in Panama – has entered in its most critical phase, following back pedaling from the government of Panama and threats by European lenders. Indigenous people set a deadline for the project to be cancelled.
Following Panama’s landmark decision in February to temporarily suspend the construction of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam – a project registered under the UN’s CDM carbon offsetting mechanism, a dialogue roundtable was set up, between the Panamanian State and local communities, to discuss the compatibility of the dam with national laws and human rights.
Faced with the indigenous demand to cancel the project, the government finally acknowledged “recurring administrative flaws and improper handling” by the company in charge, GENISA, and decided to dismiss it at the beginning of May. It also offered to carry on the discussions to analyze how the project can continue “in accordance with the well-being of the communities”.
Two weeks later however, the government completely changed its position: it considered that the “continuation of the project is a matter of national interest” and that GENISA will keep being in charge! Indigenous communities decided to walk out of the dialogue process and set a final deadline: the project should be cancelled by the 15th of June.
What happened? Part of the answer lies in the fact that European development banks have put an incredible pressure on Panama. Following the suspension of the project, they sent a letter with clear threats. They expressed “great concern and consternation” on the temporary suspension of Barro Blanco and feared that “actions such as the one taken against GENISA may weigh upon future investment decisions and harm the flow of long term investments into Panama”.
Barro Blanco has now entered in its most critical phase, according to a representative of the UN. By defending so hard the project, despite its violation of international laws, European Development Banks send an outrageous message: European public money supports human right violations. As those banks are under supervision of national states, we call the Dutch and the German government to take over the file and to withdraw from the financing of Barro Blanco.
More than ever, it is essential that project-affected peoples have the right to seek recourse when CDM project activities cause harm to communities and the environment, at any point during the project cycle. We call for a robust grievance mechanisms both, at international as well as national and local level.
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