Usumacinta River - Mexico/Guatemala.
Credit: Monti Aguirre
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Hundreds of large dams planned in secrecy threaten the rivers of Central America and Mexico and the livelihoods of communities that depend on them. The dams would impact fish populations and riverine, wetland and mangrove ecosystems, which contain many animal and plant species, some still undiscovered.
The Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), a massive infrastructure plan for the region, includes plans for interconnecting the electricity grids of the region, to be fueled mostly by hydropower. The regional power grid will interconnect the electricity grids of Central America with those of North America. Financing for the grid and the PPP comes from a range of sources, including the Inter–American Development Bank and the Central American Bank of Economic Integration.
A growing civil society movement is challenging the PPP, trade agreements, and the construction of more large dams in the Mesoamerican region. Communities are concerned about the systematic exclusion of rural populations from the decision–making process and the profound impacts on ecosystems, communities and local economies.
In March 2002, IRN was privileged to participate in the First Mesoamerican Forum on Dams together with 300 dam–affected people and activists from Mesoamerica. Participants in this first meeting exchanged experiences and basic information about the process of dam building, financing and impacts; and developed an action plan for the Mesoamerican network.
Two more Mesoamerican forums, one in La Esperanza, Honduras in 2003, and a second in Carolina, El Salvador in 2004, strengthened the movement in the region. Today, the development and consolidation of national networks of dam–affected peoples and their allies is taking place all over the region. Such networks include the Mexican Movement of Peoples Affected by Dams and in Defense of Rivers (MAPDER), and the National Guatemalan Front Against Dams.
In Mesoamerica, IRN has been monitoring plans for building five dams on the Usumacinta River, bordering Mexico and Guatemala. Indigenous and peasant communities along the Usumacinta have already declared their refusal to leave their lands and sacred sites.
In Mexico, IRN supports communities that would be affected by the La Parota Dam on the Papagayo River in Guerrero State. La Parota would displace 25,000 people, and affect the livelihoods of up to 75,000 more people. The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) of Mexico is pushing through project approval without following the required procedures for consultation with affected communities. IRN is working with the affected communities to call international attention to the illegal process of project development, and to support their struggle to stop the project.
In Guatemala, IRN has been working with Chixoy Dam affected communities and NGO partners to demand reparations from the Guatemalan Government, the World Bank and the Inter–American Development Bank for the damages caused by the dam. The Chixoy Dam was completed in the early 1980s and forcibly displaced more than 3,500 Maya community members. More than 6,000 families living in the area also suffered loss of land and livelihoods. For twenty–three years, communities have been living in poverty, and struggling to obtain reparations for their losses. In September, 2004, after a peaceful protest at the dam site, the government agreed to establish a commission to verify damages sustained by the community, with the aim of negotiating an agreement for reparations for the damages suffered. The commission held its first meeting in December 2005, and negotiations are continuing.
A briefing paper on the Plan Puebla Panama, by UCIZONI, the Association of Indigenous Communities in the Northern Zone of the Isthmus.
A Conservation Strategy Fund report. This report is written in Spanish.