“La Parota” Hydroelectric Dam Project: The impacts of mega-projects on the right to land and housing (Guerrero-Mexico)


The Mexican government has strongly promoted it through several institutions including the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), the Ministry of Energy, The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), and the Agrarian Procurator. It has also found a strong ally in the current Guerrero state governor, who pertains to an opposition party.

Over the past three years, traditional farmers from the region opposed to the project who make up the majority of area inhabitants established the Council of Communal Farmers and Communities in Opposition to La Parota Dam (CECOP) to defend themselves at the legal and political levels. Thanks to the solidarity received from numerous nongovernmental organizations, movements, academics, legislators, human rights institutions, and journalists, CECOP has been able to publicize the case nationally and internationally, and denounce the human rights violations, including affronts to civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, which have been incurred by the Mexican government.

In March 2006, the Latin American Water Tribune (TLA) ruled in favor of cancellation of the Parota project, due to the lack of demonstrated benefits of the project for the local population or contributions to regional development. In May 2006, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights addressed a series of recommendations to the Mexican government, calling for preservation of the rights of the communities affected by the project. Finally, several official reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing have expressed his concern regarding this case.

The CFE recently announced that the call for bids on the project is currently frozen pending resolution of the legal demands which have been filed by dam opponents.

The area in which the hydroelectric project known as “La Parota is planned to be constructed is located primarily in the municipalities of Acapulco, Juan R. Escudero, San Marcos, Chilpancingo, and Tecuanapan, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. If built, the dam will flood 17,000 hectares of deciduous forest, including crop land, highways and bridges, and 21 communities (4 communal-property and 16 common-property (ejido) communities and one privately-owned property). 25,000 people would be evicted from the area to be flooded by the dam’s reservoir.

Mexico”s state-owned electricity company, the Federal Electricity Commission (Comisin Federal de Electricidad CFE), initiated development of this project in 1976, with the goal to take advantage of the waters of the Papagayo and Omitln rivers. Since then, the CFE has carried out sporadic prospecting and zoning campaigns in the region. Since 2002, it has intensified its activities in the communal and ejido properties, and with support from federal, state and local governments has begun to carry out topographic studies, install machinery, and level hills to build roads, as well as many other types of activities related to the planning and installation of the dam.

The project has been rejected by a very significant percentage of the regions inhabitants. The dam would affect the daily lives and livelihoods of thousands of people, in particular the numerous families in the region dedicated to traditional communal and common-property farming activities such as crops (corn, hibiscus, papaya, melon, etc.) and livestock raising. The project would also produce serious ecological impacts, in particular causing irreversible damage to the regional ecosystem and the extinction of an endemic species (the Papagayo frog), as well as possible damages to public health as has occurred in relation with other dam projects. All of this would represent grave potential violations of the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of the farmers and rural inhabitants consecrated in the International Convention on ECOSOC Rights and other international instruments ratified by Mexico, such as the rights to free determination, housing, water, and sustenance, among others.[1]

[1] Construction of this mega-dam is strongly questioned even by the World Bank due to its high ecological and economic costs, as expressed by the WB consultants Luis Yeng and Jan Van den Akker during a recent visit to Mexico. Their declarations may be read in the article titled Alto costo ecolgico de las presas hidroelctricas: BM, published in the newspaper El Financiero, 23 August 2005. Some experts have emphasized that the plant, which has a one billion dollar price tag, will only generate electricity some five hours a day, specifically the hours with the highest energy demands. The transnational which wins the bid will be responsible for the project while the inhabitants will have nothing to gain given that the small amount of electricity they need is required at very diverse times (Antonio Gershenson in La Parota, editorial published in the newspaper la Jornada, 28 August 2005).