Breaking News: UN approved hydroelectric Barro Blanco dam suspended over community rights violations

community protests by the indigenous Ngobe communities, Panama’s environment
agency ANAM supended the Barro Blanco hydroelectric yesterday. The decision was
taken because of breaches of the national environmental impact assessment
requirements, including shortcomings in the agreement with the locally affected
indigenous communities.

suspension is celebrated by environmental groups around the world after years
of efforts to support the indigenous population in the Ngobe commarca that have
faced oppression and violations of their rights. Without the suspension they
would have ultimately been displaced by the flooding of Barro blanco hydro

The decision
to suspend the project comes timely as countries are discussing a future
climate treaty in Geneva, Switzerland. A key proposal made was to ensure that
measures to combat climate change need to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil
human rights for all. However, UN mechanisms, such as the Clean Development
Mechanism do neither provide incentives for project developers to ensure a
sustainable implementation, nor offer any recourse mechanism for affected local
communities in case of adverse impacts. The suspension of the Barro Blanco
project is a landmark decision that adds to the pressure of governments around
the world to establish procedures, such as grievance mechanisms, that protect
those most affected by climate change.

Other reasons
for the suspension of Barro Blano listed by ANAM include deficiencies in the
negotiation processes, absence of an archaeological management plan approved to
protect the petroglyphs and other archaeological findings detected, repeated
failures to manage sedimentation and erosion, poor management of solid and
hazardous waste and logging without permission.

Despite grave
concerns about the violation of local community rights, the project was
approved under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism in 2011, a mechanism designed
to reduce emissions while contributing to sustainable development.

Eyes are now
on the reactions by the banks involved in financing the Barro Blanco project.
These include the German development bank DEG and the Dutch development
FMO, where a complaint was filed by the
M-10 movement representing the indigenous communities.