PILA, patrimonio de la humanidad en riesgo por represas

La edición del 10 de mayo de 2010 de La Prensa es un ejemplo excepcional de buen periodismo ambiental dentro de los medios convencionales panameńos. En buena hora este editorial y el reportaje, que deja al lector con una idea completa de la dimensión del problema.

Felicitaciones a “La Prensa”.

BURICA PRESS
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Hoy por Hoy

Otro gran tesoro de la humanidad, dentro del territorio panameño, podría pasar a la lista de los patrimonios naturales que la Unesco considera en peligro. Los ríos del Parque Internacional La Amistad –que fuera creado originalmente para tener una reserva hídrica con el fin de asegurar fuentes de agua para el desarrollo del país– son constantemente utilizados para la construcción de plantas hidroeléctricas, so pretexto de garantizar a los panameños la producción de energía necesaria para satisfacer su demanda, y de paso lograr ingresos importantes para las arcas estatales.

Y es que, en el afán de lograr mayores inversiones, los gobiernos panameños de los últimos años no han escatimado en sacrificar nuestra reserva ecológica. La actual administración no ha sido diferente, ya que las concesiones para la explotación de minas y la construcción de hidroeléctricas en importantes ríos del país, son parte de su agenda. Es hora de poner un alto a tanto abuso contra la naturaleza, y de recordar que el recurso más importante de la humanidad es precisamente su riqueza ecológica.

EL PARQUE ES PATRIMONIO NATURAL DE LA HUMANIDAD

El PILA está en riesgo por represas

Organismos científicos y ambientales realizaron un estudio sobre las consecuencias de los proyectos hidroeléctricos en el Parque Internacional La Amistad.

JOSÉ ARCIA
jarcia@prensa.com

El 67% de las cuencas hidrológicas del Parque Internacional La Amistad (PILA), declarado Patrimonio Mundial, quedará inaccesible para las especies acuáticas diadromas (migratorias entre río y mar) si se desarrollan todos los proyectos hidroeléctricos que se adelantan tanto en Costa Rica como en Panamá.

A esta conclusión llegaron científicos y ecologistas de Estados Unidos, Costa Rica y Panamá, al analizar el impacto de la cantidad de represas que se construyen y se construirán para los proyectos hidroeléctricos en ambos países. En la vertiente atlántica panameña, por ejemplo, 16 especies diadromas probablemente desaparecerán, señala el estudio.

Los efectos ecológicos no solo serían por la desaparición de especies. El documento menciona otras consecuencias, como la deposición de sedimentos y la alteración química y de temperatura del agua de los ríos. Esto sería “catastrófico” para el PILA, dice el documento.

Silvano Vergara, director de Cuencas Hidrográficas de la Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, dijo que el PILA se creó como una reserva hídrica para el desarrollo del país. El funcionario admitió que no hay una evaluación integral de la zona.

El estudio fue enviado a la Unesco, y los científicos y ecologistas piden que el PILA sea incluido por el organismo en la lista de Patrimonio en Peligro.

INFORME DE ORGANISMOS CONSERVACIONISTAS DE EU, COSTA RICA Y PANAMÁ

DAN LA VOZ DE ALERTA

Represas ponen en peligro la biodiversidad del PILA

La posible desaparición de peces de ríos de Costa Rica y Panamá sería una de las consecuencias del daño al parque, que es patrimonio mundial.

OBSTRUCCIÓN. La construcción de represas bloquea el acceso de especias acuáticas que se mueven entre el río y el mar. Las consecuencias ecológicas de esta situación son diversas y pueden ser graves . LA PRENSA/ Archivo

JOSÉ ARCIA
jarcia@prensa.com

La construcción de represas en las zonas de amortiguamiento del Parque Internacional La Amistad (PILA), tendría “graves” consecuencias para el área natural protegida, declarada Patrimonio de la Humanidad por la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura (Unesco), señala un informe reciente de organismos conservacionistas de Estados Unidos, Costa Rica y Panamá.

El estudio, realizado conjuntamente por el Centro para la Diversidad Biológica (CBD) y la International Community Foundation de Estados Unidos, la Asociación Anai de Costa Rica y la Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo (ACD) de Panamá, detalla el posible daño a la biodiversidad acuática de los ríos de esa zona protegida, que causarían los proyectos hidroeléctricos planificados o en desarrollo, tanto en Costa Rica como en Panamá.

El documento resalta la posible desaparición de especies animales acuáticas diadromas (que se mueven entre agua dulce y salada) en las vertientes atlántica y pacífica de ambos países.

De acuerdo con el estudio, en la vertiente pacífica panameña las represas en construcción y las ya existentes han bloqueado el acceso de estos animales a los ríos y quebradas dentro del parque internacional. Esto, según los científicos, provocará la “eliminación total o casi total de estas especies”.

En el lado Atlántico, los expertos cuantificaron al menos 16 especies diadromas (ocho de peces y ocho de camarones) que probablemente desaparecerán del PILA, si los planes existentes de construcción de las represas se ejecutan.

OTROS EFECTOS

Pero las consecuencias ecológicas no solo se limitan a la desaparición de especies. De acuerdo con el documento, que toma como referencia casos similares en otros países con ecosistemas similares, la eliminación de fauna acuática afectará las dinámicas de sedimentación, descomposición de materia vegetal y la química del agua.

Esto podría tener “profundos efectos negativos en los sistemas fluviales del PILA”, añade el estudio. Según el informe, los daños se producirán tanto en las partes altas como en las bajas de las represas.

Los proyectos hidroeléctricos pueden “comprometer gravemente” la función del corredor biológico del río Changuinola, advierten los especialistas.

Precisamente sobre esa fuente hídrica se ejecutan dos proyectos hidroeléctricos. El más avanzado es el Changuinola I (Chan 75), que desarrolla la empresa Aes Changuinola, que tiene previsto terminarlo durante el primer trimestre de 2011. Este proyecto ha sido motivo de preocupación para la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos que pidió suspender la obra por posible violaciones a los derechos indígenas.

El pasado gobierno, encabezado por Martín Torrijos, declaró de interés social el proyecto.

“En general, objetamos las políticas gubernamentales que facilitan y permiten la eliminación masiva de especies y su impacto ecológico asociado en el Sitio de Patrimonio Mundial”, señala el estudio.

“El Estado panameño ha destruido o ha permitido la destrucción de la infraestructura ecológica de los ecosistemas de las cuencas hidrográficas de la mayoría de los ríos del país”, indica Ariel Rodríguez, biólogo y presidente de ACD.

Rodríguez envió una carta al administrador de la Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente (Anam), Javier Arias en la que hace estas observaciones y, junto a la cual, además, le hizo llegar una copia del estudio.

Los organismos científicos y ambientales también enviaron el documento a la Unesco para que sea considerado en las deliberaciones que este organismo mantiene sobre los riesgos graves que amenazan los ecosistemas naturales de La Amistad como Sitio de Patrimonio Mundial.

Además, piden que el PILA sea incluido en la lista de patrimonio en peligro.

RESERVA HÍDRICA

Silvano Vergara, director de Cuencas Hidrográficas de la Anam, explica que cuando se creó el PILA se hizo con un objetivo específico: tener una reserva hídrica para asegurar fuentes de agua para el desarrollo del país.

Igual objetivo cumple el Bosque Protector de Palo Seco, una reserva natural y área de amortiguamiento del PILA.

Vergara recordó que desde 1986 había planes para desarrollar proyectos energéticos en esa zona, los cuales fueron elaborados por el hoy desaparecido Instituto de Recursos Hidráulicos y Electrificación.

El funcionario matiza el impacto de estas obras en el área. “La construcción de los proyectos hidroeléctricos no elimina la fauna, solo la somete a un cambio”, dice Vergara.

Entre tanto, Vera Muñoz, gerente de comunicación de Aes Panamá, asegura que la empresa ha mantenido un “cuidadoso manejo del ambiente” a fin de conservar los ecosistemas, las fuentes de agua y la biodiversidad.

La empresa –dice– trabaja en conjunto con las comunidades y las entidades gubernamentales, y aplica un “cuidadoso plan de manejo”.

Sin embargo, el estudio de los expertos conservacionistas plantea otra realidad. Los planes de mitigación, señala el documento, propuestos por la empresa son “imposibles” de implementar por el diseño de construcción de la represa.

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Comments on Changuinola 1 (Chan 75) Large Hydro Project (Panama)

Comments on Changuinola 1 (Chan 75)

Large Hydro Project (Panama)

August 11, 2008

Comments on the CDM Project Design Document (PDD) for the AES Changuinola I (a.k.a. Chan 75) Large Hydroelectric Dam Project: A Case of “Greenwash Additionality”

Submitted by International Rivers to the project validator TÜV SÜD
August 8, 2008

Project Overview:

  • Location: Changuinola River, La Amistad UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Buffer Zone and Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, Panama
  • Type: 222 MW; 99m concrete dam; 1394 ha reservoir.
  • Project Promoter: AES Corporation
  • Social impacts: Include forced displacement of more than 1000 Ngobe indigenous people and harm to livelihoods of 4000 more. Because of the dam the Ngobe have suffered beatings, arbitrary detention, public humiliation, threats and illegal destruction of crops and homes at the hands of the police and AES.
  • Environmental impacts: Destruction of riverine and forest ecosystems in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The dam is expected to have severely negative impacts on fish and shrimp biodiversity by blocking migrations between the San San Wetlands Ramsar site and the UNESCO World Heritage Site La Amistad International Park (shared with Costa Rica).
  • Status: Under construction. Land clearing started 2005. Subject to numerous ongoing court cases, repression of local communities, and criticism from United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and indigenous people.
  • Additionality Status: Non-additional in terms of how CDM “additionality” is normally understood (i.e. that the prospect of CDM registration was necessary for the project to go forward). However the project could be considered as a case of a new form of additionality: “greenwash additionality.” Validation by TÜV-SUD and registration by the CDM could harm local community and environmentalist efforts to stop the project and protect local communities by providing apparent UN support for the project.
  • Quality of PDD: PDD contains numerous fraudulent claims, in particularon project additionality and the strong opposition from local indigenous communities. No mention is made of the intimidation and other repressive tactics used against local communities, the legal irregularities in the project approval process, or the numerous legal challenges against the project.
  • Impact of validating the project: Vindication of repression against local communities and fraud in CDM documents. Could set back legal and political campaigns to stop the project.
  • Estimated generation: 1047 GWh/yr
  • Claimed “emission reductions”: 669,000 tCO2/year (4,683,000 tCO2 over 7 years)

Further comments on project additionality

“Investment Barrier”
AES announced that they would build the dam on the basis of a 10-year power purchase agreement with utility, Union Fenosa, at a meeting with Panama’s President Martin Torrijos on January 26, 2006. Full-scale construction started in 2007. Andres Gluski, president of AES Latin America, told President Torrijos that the dam would “provide a . . . low cost source of electricity for Panama.”

It is inconceivable that AES would have entered a legal contract to supply electricity and committed a $320 million investment if this would only be economically viable if at some point in the future the dam would be issued credits by the CDM. This is especially true given AES experience of its application to the CDM for the Bayano Hydro Expansion Project in Panama. This application was first made in 2001 and is still waiting for validation. (The Bayano Expansion has long since been completed regardless of its not receiving CER income). AES also unsuccessfully tried to get CDM registration for its Bujagali dam in Uganda in 2002. (Although AES is no longer involved the dam is now under construction despite not receiving CER income).

The PDD claims that the Minutes from an AES Board of Directors meeting in October 2006 “demonstrates that the incentive to develop the project activity as a CDM [sic] was considered and played an important role in the decision to go ahead with the project.” This is irrelevant in terms of proving additionality. To be additional the CDM must essential to the decision to develop the project, not just an “important” factor which was “considered.” Given that AES is well aware of CDM rules, and stands to gain revenues of around $70m (@$15/CER) overseven years if they get CDM registration, it would indeed be surprising if their board did not consider how much they would like to get CDM registration. It would even be somewhat surprising if the $70m was not a sufficient inducement for the board to say that the CDM was essential for the project to go ahead regardless of the reality. The CDM process is predicated upon independent evaluation of developer claims, not just taking developers at their word. In any case confidential minutes should not be eligible to be used in CDM validation processes which must be open to public scrutiny.

“Prevailing Practice Barrier”
AES makes the absurd claim that “under a business as usual scenario hydroelectric technology would not be implemented in Panama.” In reality, hydropower has long supplied the majority of Panama’s electricity. In 2004 hydropower contributed 56% of the country’s installed capacity. The list of “recent hydropower projects in Panama” given in the PDD includes only one hydropower plant commissioned since 1984 and conveniently fails to list AES’s Bayano expansion project, or numerous other hydro projects that are under construction or recently completed. It omits the two other dams for which AES has received concessions on the Changuinola River, the highly controversial Bonyic hydro project, and the 87 hydro projects that have been approved by, or are seeking approval from, Panama’s DNA (CDM authority).

“Barrier due to Project’s Sensitive Location”
This is the one area where the project may indeed be additional. The project is being built in a supposedly protected area and on the lands of an indigenous community which is strongly opposed to the project. This opposition has been manifested in numerous political actions such as the blockading of the road to the construction site in December 2007 and January 2008, as well as a number of domestic and international legal actions (the struggle against the dam is referred to in the PDD only as a “significant discussion”).

One of the more shockingly deceitful claims made by AES in the PDD is that “95% of the population in the region approves the project.” The only evidence given for this claim is a newspaper clipping quoting the leader of an “astroturf” (false grassroots) organization set up and funded by AES to promote their dams and discredit genuine environmental and community organizations. This is typical of the dirty tricks used by AES to promote the dam.

It may be the case that if the Changuinola I dam is registered by the CDM this will give the appearance of UN approval for the project’s “clean” credentials. This could assist AES and the Panamanian government (majority shareholders in AES Panama) to defeat the political and legal challenges to the dam and ensure its completion. This is the only form of additionality – let us call it “greenwash additionality” – for the project which is at all credible.

This “greenwash additionality” is totally unacceptable and contrary to the spirit of the CDM. The CDM is not supposed to help unscrupulous and dishonest developers to steamroller environmentally and socially destructive projects against the wishes of local people or to interfere in ongoing legal processes and petitions. If TÜV-SUD validates this project it will be colluding in the human rights abuses and environmental destruction being caused by Changuinola 1 and the dishonest practices of AES.

The AES PDD claims that the dam “follows the recommendations” of the World Commission on Dams. This is a risible claim. The dam is in breach of numerous essential aspects of the WCD, most importantly perhaps the requirement to gain the “free, prior informed consent” of indigenous people. Clearly AES have paid lip service to the WCD in the hope that this will help ensure that CERs from Changuinola I will be eligible to be used in the European Trading System (which requires WCD compliance).

Proper Consultation and Research

To be legitimate, TÜV-SUD’s validation process must include interviews with stakeholders other than AES and allied groups and the Panamanian government. These stakeholders should include at a minimum Ngobe community leaders, their legal advisors, Panamanian environmental and human rights organizations including ACD, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and indigenous people, and members of the UNESCO delegation who visiting the area in January 2008 to assess the request for the La Amistad International Park to be listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger. A validation report based only on discussions with dam supporters would be non-credible and totally unacceptable.

Further reading for TÜV-SUD

“International Rivers Comments on Proposed CDM Methodology for Bayano Large Hydro Expansion (Panama)” http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/node/1331

“Changuinola 75 Hydroelectric facility, Panama”
http://www.power-technology.com/projects/changuinola75/

“AES To Build 150 MW Hydroelectric Plant with Long Term Contract in Panama; Company to Add a Total of 940 MW to Its Global Fleet, Business Wire, Jan 26, 2006 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2006_Jan_26/ai_n26738004

Sarah Cordero et al. “Análisis de costo beneficio de cuatro proyectos hidroelélectricos en la cuenca Changuinola-Teribe.” ACD/Asociación ANAI/CSF, July 2006 http://conservation-strategy.org/files/Changuinola%20FINAL.pdf

Ellen L. Lutz “Dam Nation.” Cultural Survival Quarterly, Winter 2007. “Letter of the Ngobe People affected by Dam Chan 75 of the Company AES Changuinola.” International Indian Treaty Council, March 2008 http://www.treatycouncil.org/document_9111112121211211.htm

Jeffrey D. Stein, “Resistance to Dam Nation: An Analysis of the Stance and Strategies of the Opposition Movement to the Chan-75 Hydroelectric Project in Bocas del Toro, Panama.” BA thesis, Wesleyan University, Connecticut, April 2008.

Jessica Barber, “Paradigms and Perceptions: A Chronology and Analysis fo the Events of the Chan-75 Hydroelectric Project and the Roles and Relationships of Participants.” SIT Panama: Conservation and Development, May 2008.

More information:

Dams Threaten Biodiversity and Indigenous People in Panama

International Rivers Comments on CDM Methodology for Bayano Large Hydro Dam Expansion (Panama)

Contact us:

Patrick McCully
patrick@internationalrivers.org
+1 510 848 1155

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The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was established under the Kyoto Protocol. It is the most important global carbon trading system. It is intended to lower industrialized countries’ costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by allowing them to purchase “carbon credits” that subsidize supposedly low–carbon “sustainable development” projects in developing countries.

International Rivers’ experience in monitoring CDM projects has shown many serious flaws in its theory and application. Project proposal documents are marred by misleading and often patently false claims. International Rivers and others have explained these problems in numerous comments on specific hydro projects submitted during the CDM project approval process.

Many of the projects proposed (and many of those approved) for CDM credits are “non-additional.” This means that they would have taken place without help from sales of carbon credits. The end result is that developed countries are avoiding having to reduce their own emissions by claiming credits for fictitious emission reductions.

The hydropower industry is particularly culpable in cheating the CDM system. By mid-January 2008, 755 hydro projects with an installed capacity of 25,362 MW had applied for credits, almost two-thirds of them in China. International Rivers maintains a spreadsheet with data on hydropower projects in the CDM project pipeline. If the UN body that administers the CDM approves these projects the hydro industry will make billions of dollars from the Northern consumers and taxpayers who will indirectly pay for the credits. Meanwhile the global climate – and the effectiveness and credibility of the Kyoto Protocol – will suffer.

Many observers agree that the supposed “sustainable development” benefits of the CDM have failed to materialize. Only a tiny minority of credits are being purchased from “additional” sustainable energy projects with clear environmental and social benefits.

A European Union law called the Linking Directive regulates the use of CDM credits within the EU’s internal carbon trading system. The directive states that large hydro credits entering the European Trading System must comply with the criteria and guidelines of the World Commission on Dams. To date, none of the large hydros in the CDM pipeline have proven WCD compliance. International Rivers is working to ensure that credits from large hydro projects that cannot prove CDM compliance cannot be used within the European Trading System.

Hydro protestors jailed, released

Interior

Hydro protestors jailed, released

Indigenous leaders have pledged to keep protesting against planned hydroelectric projects in Bocas del Toro until they are stopped.

Police released 50 demonstrators Friday who were taken into custody Thursday after a protest turned violent. Protestors had been seeking to prevent equipment from entering the hydro site. The protests had been going on for about two weeks, but the first reports of violence came on Thursday.

About 150 indigenous families have been impacted by the project, which includes a dam and hydroelectric power plant near Charco La Pava on the Río Changuinola. The company AES Changuinola is doing the work.

The protest seems to be centered around the company’s plan to relocate those displaced by the project. Indigenous leaders say homeowners have not received documents or titles to the new property promised them by the company, so they returned to the work site to reclaim their land (inside La Amistad Panama Biosphere Reserve).

“We will keep protesting until we reach President Martín Torrijos and a solution to the problem is forthcoming,” said indigenous representative Willy Abrego.

Other leaders warned that the demonstrations are likely to become increasingly violent.

AES Changuinola is a subsidiary of a U.S.-based company, AES Corporation. The company plans to build three hydroelectric dams on the Río Changuinola. These projects have been widely criticized by both residents of the area as well as by local and international environmental groups.

The Miami Herald Panama, 5 de enero de 2007