ECO is deeply concerned by the current developments in the Barro Blanco project in Panama, a hydroelectric dam registered under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and financially backed by the German and Dutch development banks.
In 2015, Panama recognised that the Barro Blanco project had been approved in violation of the Ngäbe’s social and cultural rights. The government temporarily suspended the construction of the project. Later in the year, the government fined the project developer $775,000 for failing to negotiate with, relocate and compensate those affected by the dam.
How can it be that the dam is fully constructed, and still no agreement has been reached with the affected Ngäbe communities?
Just two days ago, Panama announced that it will “initiate the filling of the dam reservoir” today on May 24. While the government claims that the measure is “temporary and will allow for the necessary testing,” it will flood homes, schools, and religious sites and threaten the cultural heritage of the indigenous Ngäbe communities. The flooding will severely affect the Ngäbe’s territorial lands and means of subsistence, and will result in the forced relocation of several families.
Barro Blanco is a clear example of why human rights protections must be included in the newly established Sustainable Development Mechanism. Despite the Parties’ failure to reach agreement on the scope of an appeals procedure for the CDM, the SDM must learn from CDM’s mistakes and provide an accountability mechanism that allows affected peoples and communities to raise concerns about harms associated with these mitigation projects. As the Paris Agreement calls on Parties to protect human rights in climate action, Parties must ensure that another Barro Blanco never happens.