News / 8 April 2014

Minister Ploumen regrets situation Barro Blanco

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.


BE: What is the current situation in the Barro Blanco?
Anouk Franck:
“The situation is frightening. Some Ngäbe occupy the land around the river to prevent the continuation of the construction. There is a constant threat of violent intervention by security forces and the police. In the past, such confrontations have caused deaths and injuries. Police have installed huge lamps that prevent the occupants from sleeping at night. We have no idea how this will end. This situation has been going on for weeks now.


BE: Will the answers of minister Ploumen stop the construction of the dam?
Anouk Franck:

No, but at least Minister Ploumen is aware of the problem. She acknowledges that a part of the locals do not feel represented in the public consultation process about the dam, but she does not draw conclusions from this. The FMO recognises this as well, but relies too much on the information provided by its client Genisa, even though it is very clear that there is absolutely no trust between the affected residents and Genisa. We have seen no evidence of Genisa undertaking any actions to arrive at a peaceful solution and since we are not allowed to look at Genisa’s plan of action, it is not possible for us to assess if FMO’s confidence is justified or not.”


BE: What does this mean for the FMO?
Anouk Franck:

FMO claims to follow international standards (like those of the commercial branch of the World Bank, the IFC). Then how is it possible that local residents have been involved so little that they have been demonstrating for years already ? The United Nations even had to intervene to facilitate a dialogue. Still, according to the Ngäbe, around 270 people will forced to move. Currently, the dam is almost finished, which means that they will be evicted from their land and their homes because no agreement has been reached. I first spoke to the FMO about this issue three years ago, before they even decided to finance the dam. All this time, the FMO has not acknowledged the severity of the problems and the responsibility that are bearing as funder of the project.


Previous news items:

18 Februari 2014: Situation tense for indigenous Ngäbe people near Barro Blanco in Panama

14 Februari 2014: Filing a complaint with the FMO

19 June 2013:       Will UN Rapporteur Anaya investigate Barro Blanco dam in Panama?


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