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05.09.2009 - 04:15PM
By Peter Galvin
La Amistad International Park (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/205)is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that provides habitat for hundreds of rare, endemic, endangered, and migratory species, and is directly adjacent to the homes of the Ngobe tribe.
AES Corporation is a Virginia-based company planning to construct three hydroelectric dams on the Changuinola River, the lifeblood of the park. The dams will flood Ngobe villages and create insurmountable barriers for fish species upon which the tribes rely. Yet AES behaves as if it is unaware of these issues, maintaining it has a "commitment to be environmentally responsible." Therefore, I will attend Thursday's shareholder meeting to make sure AES leadership and shareholders are aware of the irreversible damage the dams will cause.
I will attempt to speak at the meeting and distribute a letter (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/panama_rainforest_and_rivers/pdfs/letter_to_AES_4-2009.pdf) to AES President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Hanrahan highlighting the developments that have occurred since I last wrote Hanrahan in August 2007 (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/panama_rainforest_and_rivers/pdfs/CBD-letter-to-AES-Corp-August-23-2007.pdf), including:
March 2009: Ombudsman Office of Panama issued a special report (http://www.defensoriadelpueblo.gob.pa/) on human-rights violations and the construction of the dam.
October 2008: The InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights held a public hearing on the legality of the displacement of the Ngobe tribe and the alleged failure of AES to obtain prior, informed consent.
August 2008: Mr. James Anaya, a UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, issued a declaration (http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/0/40A49D23F8481D60C125749F003925B6?opendocument) expressing concern about the Ngobe affected by the dam.
July 2008: The World Heritage Committee found that there is an "absence of any planned measures to mitigate the impact of the hydroelectric dams.and.absence of an effective participatory management process involving civil society and government authorities," and requested that Panama develop and implement measures to monitor mitigation, ensure the needs of the community are met, and carry out a cumulative-effects analysis of the dam construction.
I want the AES Corporation to terminate its involvement with the dams on the Changuinola.
AES claims that it is a socially and environmentally responsible company, yet is rushing ahead with projects which will cause irreversible damage to one of the most pristine ecosystems on earth, and will cause thousands of indigenous people to be essentially forcibly relocated from their homes and villages. Studies have shown that these projects will actually increase
greenhouse gas emissions due to the massive amount of methane released from tropical dam reservoirs. Shame on AES. AES must immediately halt the environmentally and socially catastrophic dam projects on the Changuinola
About Peter Galvin
Peter Galvin, Conservation Director, is a co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity (http://biologicaldiversity.org/). He holds a bachelor's from Prescott College and a master's from Vermont College of Norwich University. Peter coordinates the Center's legal actions, oversees its International Program, and helps formulate policy and strategy. Before working for the Center, he worked as a contract wildlife researcher for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Peter also serves on the board of directors of the Beech Hill Foundation and is a member of the Science Oversight Team for the Global Owl Project.
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