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

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COMMENTS SUBMITTED BY THE CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW REGARDING THE CHAN 75 DAM PROJECT IN PANAMA

Summary

CIEL hereby presents comments on the Project Design Document of the Chan 75 project, in light of relevant criteria developed by the Clean Development Mechanism, in accordance with paragraph 40 of the CDM modalities and procedures as defined in Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol.1 In short, CIEL finds that the project: (1) lacks additionality; (2) fails to adequately consult affected communities and obtain their free and prior informed consent; and (3) does not contribute to sustainable development. These reasons render the project ineligible for CDM registration.

The Chan 75 Project Lacks Additionality

In the barrier analysis subsection of the CHAN 75 PDD’s assessment and demonstration of additionality section, the assertion is made that “hydro electric power plants are not th technology of choice in Panama” and that “construction of hydropower plants in Panamá i not a common practice.” This analysis does not reflect the reality of Panamanian hydropower generation. On the CIA World Factbook page for Panama, hydropower is listed as a natural resource.2 Furthermore, the CIA World Factbook defines natural resources as “resources of commercial importance.”3 Hydropower is thus of commercial importance to Panama. Finally, no other energy resources are listed under the “natural resources” entry for Panama.4

Further, the CHAN 75 project was proposed in the 1980s, well before the CDM came into operation. This fact is demonstrated by the project’s mention in a Library of Congress Country Study published in 1989.5 The specific article that mentions the Changuinola I project is on the subject of the Ngöbe, then known as the Guaymí, and development projects on their lands.6 Consequently, it cannot be said to constitute an emissions reduction project. Rather, it is business-as-usual, large dam construction having significant and irreversible environmental and social impacts. For these reasons, the project lacks additionality and consequently does not meet the criteria for CDM eligibility.

The Chan 75 Project Fails to Adequately Consult Affected Communities and Obtain their
Free and Prior-Informed Consent

The Chan 75 dam project involves major impacts in the ancestral territories of the Ngöbe indigenous people. Despite such impacts, the project has failed to adequately consult the Ngöbe and obtain their free and prior informed consent. This situation not only violates CDM standards on consultations, but constitutes a violation of the rights of the Ngöbe indigenous people.

This situation has been documented in a Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding Human Rights violations by the Government of Panama against the Ngöbe indigenous communities, presented by Cultural Survival and La Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo de Panamá. This petition details AES-Changuinola’s and the Government of Panama’s failure to respect the property and information rights of the Ngöbe.7 For example, the company conducted negotiations only with individual househol heads that do not have the power to surrender lands for which their families have rights, seeking to bribe or coerce them into cooperating.8 Most of these household heads are illiterate, speak little Spanish, and have never engaged in dealings for use or sale of thei land with people outside their community.9

These actions violate the Ngöbe’s rights under the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Panama is a party, specifically Articles 13 and Article 21, the rights to freedom to receive information and to use and enjoyment of property, respectively.10 In this regard, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in Case of the Saramaka People v. Suriname,11 held that large scale development projects that would have a major impact within an indigenous people’s territory can only proceed with the free, prior, and informed consent of the people, according to their customs and traditions.12

The Chan 75 Project does Not Contribute to Sustainable Development

A project that violates human rights is incompatible with the concept of sustainable development. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development recognizes that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is essential for achieving sustainable development and ensuring that sustainable development benefits all.

In addition, the Project is having a deleterious effect on sustainable development in its host country. AES-Changuinola, although paying for the resettlement of displaced Ngöbe, is not taking adequate measures to ensure their livelihoods. Some Ngöbe who have received compensation are having difficulty coping with the cost of living and loss of community due to their relocation to an urban area13 and some, after having lost their land, have ended up dependent on charity for their survival.14

Conclusion

The Chan 75 dam Project is ineligible for CDM registration because the project: (1) lacks additionality; (2) fails to adequately consult affected communities and obtain their free and prior informed consent; and (3) does not contribute to sustainable development.

Contact

Marcos A. Orellana
Senior Attorney
Center for International Environmental Law
1350 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20036, USA
Fax: (202) 785-8701

1 Report of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol on its first session, held at Montreal from 28 November to 10 December 2005, Addendum Part Two: Action taken by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol at its first session, U.N. DOC. FCCC/KP/CMP/2005/8/Add.1, Annex ¶ 40, at p. 15, available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2005/cmp1/eng/08a01.pdf#page=15 (accessed 8 August 2008).
2 See “Panama,” The CIA World Factbook, available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pm.html#Geo (accessed 7 August 2008).
3 See “natural resources,” The CIA World Factbook, available at:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/docs/notesanddefs.html#2111 (accessed 7 August 2008).
4 See “Panama,” The CIA World Factbook, available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pm.html#Geo (accessed 7 August 2008).
5 See Panama: A Country Study, Chapter 2: “The Society and its Environment,” article on Guaymí, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress (1989), available at: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/patoc.html (accessed 8 August 2008).
6 Id. at Chapter 2, “Guaymí.”
7 Petition, “Human Rights violations by the Government of Panama against the Ngöbe indigenous communities and individuals in the Changuinola River Valley, Bocas del Toro, Panama,” p. 32-33 (28 Mar. 2008), on file with CIEL.
8 Id. at 33.
9 Id. at 33.
10 See American Convention on Human Rights, available at:
http://www.cidh.org/Basicos/English/Basic3.American%20Convention.htm, (accessed 7 August, 2008).
11 2007 Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 172 (Nov. 28, 2007).
12 Id. at ¶ 134.
13 Petition, supra note 7, at p. 14.
14 Id. at p. 16.

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