No More Big Dams

This story from Cultural Survival magazine’s spring 2010 issue makes me so sad. An American company, AES, has been given permission by the government of Panama to build a hydroelectric dam on the Changuinola River. That dam will put 4 Ngobe communities under water and harm many others. According to Cultural Survival, the government let the company negotiate with the Ngobe, and the company didn’t talk to entire communities, just to selected people. So now construction is proceeding despite a lawsuit filed by Cultural Survival with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The old colonial, divide-and-conquer strategy in action. Hurray for American companies!

There has got to be a better way for the government of Panama to develop the country or to get electricity to remote regions. Wouldn’t building solar panels help just a little? There’s got to be some sun in a rainforest!

Let’s just stop displacing people for dams or mines or any other project. If we have to move entire communities out of the way to get something built, then don’t build it! And don’t use the excuse that you’re going to “improve” their poverty-stricken lives. What you’re going to do is make them second-class citizens in some enclave of the majority society. It’s OK for people to live a simple, subsistence-style life, as long as those who have access to other opportunities can get them.

Source: “Panama Dam Campaign,” Cultural Survival, Spring 2010, p. 25

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And even more joy from National Geographic. The Omo River in Ethiopia provides water and food to 200,000 people, but the Gilgel Gibe III dam will flood some of its northern reaches. In the southern parts of the river, water levels may drop, damaging fisheries and making it more difficult for local people to water their crops.

Source: “Africa’s Last Frontier,” by Neil Shea, National Geographic, March 2010, p. 96