In Panama, the construction of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam will force the evictions of members of the indigenous Ngöbe community, who use the land along the Tabasara River as their primary means of subsistence and culture. Environmental and human rights groups have submitted an urgent appeal to the United Nations to put a stop to “imminent forced evictions of indigenous Ngöbe families,” Earthjustice reports.
The appeal, submitted by Ngöbe organization Movimiento 10 de Abril para la Defensa del Rio Tabasará and three international NGOs, including Earthjustice, notes that the Ngöbe people were not consulted about the construction of the dam, nor did they give consent to be displaced from their land. “Executing these forced evictions will constitute a violation of international human rights law,” said María José Veramendi Villa of AIDA, one of the organizations filing an appeal on behalf of the Ngöbe.
“The forced evictions of the Ngöbe are the most recent threat arising from the Barro Blanco project,” Earthjustice writes. “These evictions raise imminent violations of their human rights to adequate housing; property, including free, prior and informed consent; food, water and means of subsistence; culture; and education.”
According to Carbon Market Watch (CMW), the Ngöbe indigenous community initially formed a movement against the dam and demanded protection of their rights and resources. “Violent repression by President Martinelli against the peaceful [Ngöbe] protests left three of them dead and more than a hundred wounded,” CMW states. “Communications were cut and human rights were severely violated. Minors were beaten and pepper-sprayed while handcuffed. Police raided hospitals to abduct the wounded. There were even reports of detained [Ngöbe] women raped by police agents.”
The Barro Blanco dam is being financed by European banks and was approved under the United Nations’ carbon offsetting scheme in 2011, “despite concerns about the accuracy of the Environmental Impact Assessment and local stakeholder requirements.” The dam will flood the lands of more than half a dozen townships along the riverbanks, affecting the livelihoods of some 5,000 Ngöbe farmers.
Environmental and human rights groups are also appealing to the governments whose banks are financing the project. “Under international law, States must ensure that their development banks do not finance projects that violate human rights, including extraterritorially,” said Abbery Rubinson of Earthjustice. “Forced eviction of the Ngöbe without their consent is reason enough to suspend financing of this project.”
Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.