Submitted by: Amazon Watch
Posted: May 14, 2009 – 06:41 AM EST
May 14 /CSRwire/ - WASHINGTON, May 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following was issued today by Amazon Watch: Spain's Banco Santander, which has been facing growing criticism for being a lead financier in a highly controversial dam project in the Brazilian Amazon, recently signed on to the "Equator Principles," a set of socially and environmentally responsible financing guidelines adopted by a growing number of private banks. At the annual meeting of the Equator Banks this week in Washington, D.C., environmental organizations are challenging Banco Santander to demonstrate its commitment to the Equator Principles by pulling out of the controversial Madeira Dam Complex.
Banco Santander has played a leading role in advising and coordinating the financial structure of Santo Antonio dam and holds a 5 percent equity stake in the project.
The Santo Antonio and Jirau hydroelectric dams being built on Brazil's Madeira River have generated enormous controversy in Brazil due to the massive environmental and social harm the projects would cause the region's complex and fragile ecosystems as well as the indigenous and traditional communities who rely on the river for their survival. In addition to adverse social and environmental impacts, the dams are risky from a financial standpoint, as several legal actions threaten to suspend construction.
"Banco Santander’s financing the Santo Antonio dam is enabling drastic environmental impacts to unfold in the Amazon," says Roland Widmer, the manager of the Eco-Finance Program at the Friends of the Earth of the Brazilian Amazon. "There are serious irregularities in the dams' environmental licensing process. Also dam construction has already caused an environmental disaster for which the company has already been fined some US$ 4.2 million, including for killing of over 11 tons of fish. The region’s indigenous peoples say they have not been adequately consulted about the dams and have demanded that the licenses be revoked."
Glenn Switkes, the Director of the Amazon Program at International Rivers, commented, "Banco Santander's support of the Santo Antonio dam is a clear contradiction to its stated aspirations for sustainability and social and environmental responsibility. There is no question that the Madeira dams violate the Equator Principles. Banco Santander should pull out of the Madeira complex."