News / 6 May 2015

Construction of Barro Blanco dam will be resumed

Although the Panamanian government decided to suspend the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in February of this year, it now appears that construction will be resumed after all. This has been announced by the government on Monday May 4th. The contract with the original developer, Genisa, will most probably be terminated, and other project developers will be sought. However, according to representatives of the indigenous Ngöbe Buglé community, new developers will not solve the problem: the dam will inevitably damage their territory and surroundings. Out of protest, they left the roundtable dialogue with the Panamanian government which started in February with the aim to find a solution to the problem of the controversial dam.

The Ngöbe are strong opponents of the construction of the dam because it is a threat to their homes, schools, religious locations and buildings which are located in the area where they have always lived. The Barro Blanco dam would flood these locations and buildings and change the Tabasará river into a stagnant lake. The organisation M-10, which represents communities in affected indigenous villages, has been fighting for a voice in the decision-making process on Barro Blanco – which is their right - for years now. According to the vice-president of Panama, De Saint Malo de Alvarado, the Panamanian government has been putting effort into ensuring that consultation processes take place, but has not enforced these due to binding agreements with investors. However, considering that the local Ngöbe community’s right to Free Prior and Informed Consent has been violated, this is a weak argument: there have been heavy protests against the dam for years now. So the question is how a consultation process could solve this when the original decision of approval cannot be reversed.


Both ENDS regrets the decision of the Panamanian government to follow through with the project. We also fear that contracting a different project developer will change little to nothing: when the dam has been finished and is in working order, a large area will be flooded. We have been following this case for several years and have been supporting M-10 in their fight in every possible way. Last year we helped M-10 with filing a complaint with the FMO, the Dutch development bank which has been investing in the project. However, the evaluation of the complaint has been ongoing for almost a year and up until now has not contributed to solving the issue. We will keep following the developments in Barro Blanco and bring them to the attention of the public.


For more information, go to our previous news items:


11 Feb 2015:  Construction Barro Blanco dam finally suspended

07 May 2014: Complaint against FMO on grievance

28 Feb 2014:  Parliamentary questions about construction Barro Blanco dam in Panama

18 Feb 2014:  Situation tense for indigenous Ngäbe people near Barro Blanco dam

14 Feb 2014:  Filing a complaint with the FMO?

19 June 2013: Will VN-rapporteur James Anaya investigate Barro Blanco dam in Panama?


Background information on Barro Blanco can be found here

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