News / 28 February 2014

Parliamentary questions about the construction of the Barro Blanco Dam in Panama

Yesterday Jasper van Dijk, MP of the Socialist Party (SP), submitted written parliamentary questions to Minister Lilianne Ploumen for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation about the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in Panama. The construction of this controversial dam continues despite violent protests in Panama against human rights violations and environmental damage. What does the Netherlands have to do with it? At the end of 2012 the SP also asked parliamentary questions about this issue. Anouk Franck of Both ENDS explains why.

Dutch contribution, Dutch responsibility?

"The Barro Blanco dam is co-financed by the Dutch development bank FMO, which has provided a loan of $25 million for the project. The Dutch state owns 51% of the shares of FMO, which is why the parliamentary questions address the responsibility of the Netherlands for the investments made by the bank. These investments are subject to international rules on human rights and the environment, but these rules appear to have been ignored in this case.”


Before the start of the construction of the dam, the local inhabitants of the Ngäbe community  should have been consulted and asked for permission. Not only a number of houses, but also several memorials will be inundated. "The Ngobe community is outraged by the lack of public participation and the SP therefore rightfully asks the Minister whether she is prepared to put the project on hold until at least this formal requirement is satisfied."



Hopefully the Minister will respond quickly to the written questions of Van Dijk as the construction of the dam continues and tensions are heightening. On 17 February this year, it seemed for a moment like the evacuation of the area was about to begin, but this blew over. Even so, the moment of evacuation is fast approaching, and in the meantime there is still no genuine search for a rapprochement with the bereaved families and therefore a peaceful solution is not in sight …  "As it stands now, the dam will be operational in May this year. In the meantime, I can only hope that no more deaths and injuries will result from clashes between protesting indigenous communities and Panamanian security forces.”


Lead by example

“Above all, I hope the Minister will make a wise decision. The Dutch state should obviously lead by example, both now and in the future. Before proceeding with investments, it is necessary to do solid research into any potential damage to people and their environment. Until it is certain that all international regulations are met - like acquiring the consent of the indigenous population - the Netherlands, and therefore FMO, should not get involved in a project.”


For more information and background, please see :

18 February 2014: Tense situation for indigenous Ngäbe people near Barro Blanco in Panama

14 February 2014: Filing a complaint with the FMO

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


Anouk Franck has been working at Both ENDS since 2008. She focuses especially on monitoring investments of large (international) financial intitutions to see  which social and environmental safeguards they employ, and if they are put into practice.



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