The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development regrets the fact that part of the Ngäbe-Buglé tribe is unhappy with the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in the river Tabasara in Panama. Ploumen said this in reply to parliamentary questions filed by Jasper van Dijk (SP). The Netherlands is involved in the construction of this controversial dam because of the loan provided by the Dutch development bank FMO. The minister does not have the intention of forcing the FMO to withdraw the loan, even though the basic human right of "free, prior and informed consent’ has been violated. A part of the Ngäbe tribe has not been informed before the plans were carried out. Anouk Franck of Both ENDS looks at the impact of the FMO loans.
The construction of the Barro Blanco dam in Panama is entering the final stage. Project developer Genisa is planning to bring the dam into operation in May. The indigenous Ngäbe people that live in the area, a tribe of about two hundred thousand, are opposed to the construction of the dam. They have entrenched themselves in the areas where the building of the dam is being completed. All of them are afraid of the security forces, who acted with a lot of violence in the last confrontation.
Following years of community protest the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in Panama is finally suspended. This was publicly announced by Panama’s Environmental Agency ANAM yesterday. The suspension of the project has been a request of the Ngöbe community, represented by the Movimiento 10 de Abril (M-10), for years. The dam is projected to flood homes, schools, and religious, archaeological, and cultural sites in the indigenous traditional territory, and convert the Tabasará River from a running river to a stagnant lake ecosystem. The suspension of the project is just in time, as the dam’s construction is near to completion,
Large-scale infrastructural projects have detrimental effects on local people and the environment, while their benefits are felt elsewhere. Both ENDS is working to ensure that local people have a greater say in decision-making and is investigating the way these projects are funded.
And will James Amaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, ask the Panama government to halt the construction of the disastrous dam for the time being? This is what Both ENDS calls for in a letter to mr. Anaya, together with 12 civil society organizations, including four from Panama. It’s urgent because the Barro Blanco Dam, planned in the Tabasará river, is destructive to the Ngäbe indians.
The closing of the Barro Blanco dam last year caused not only material but also cultural damage in the affected Ngäbe-Buglé communities in Panama. So far, funder FMO is not taking responsibility for the human rights abuses caused by the project. So, what now?
Last week, the conclusions of an independent fact-finding mission to the Agua Zarca Hydro-electric Project in Honduras, were released. The report was commissioned by one of the project financiers, the Dutch development bank FMO after human rights defender and fierce opponent of the dam Berta Cáceres was murdered in March 2016.
Development banks such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the German DEG and the Dutch FMO have some crucial similarities: they operate with public money, and their ultimate goal is to fight poverty and promote development. But in practice, 'development' seems to be a broad concept, as there are many people that do not profit from the projects these banks invest in. On the contrary, large groups of people are often faced with negative consequences of the investments of development banks. Under pressure from civil society organisations, including Both ENDS, a number of development banks set up a complaint desk for those that are adversely affected.