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Oberlin College

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Program Name

Panama: Conservation and Development

Abstract

The pending construction of the Changuinola 75 Hydroelectric Project (Chan-75) has sparked significant controversy as the affected communities, national non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and international NGO’s have protested against the conduct of the project’s promoters, the AES Corporation and supporters, the Panamanian government. Located in the Bosque Protector Palo Seco, a buffer zone to La Amistad International Park, the Chan-75 hydroelectric dam project will have significant consequences for the biodiversity, flora and fauna of the area. The dam will also displace four indigenous Ngöbe communities, a traditionally marginalized and underrepresented group, as well as flooding the farmland of many others. Hydroelectric power accounts for 51% of the primary energy production in Panama. Though Panama does not currently need to import energy to meet demand, there is growing concern that the growing population may soon demand more than is available. The environmental and social effects of hydroelectric dams have sparked a worldwide anti-dam movement that has begun to intersect with the growing indigenous rights movement of Latin America; these two movements inform the movement in Changuinola. This paper provides a graphical representation and written account of major events surrounding the efforts of AES and its associates to push the Chan-75 project forward and the those of the project’s opponents to block its construction based on primary documents. Using testimonies of participants from both sides of the controversy, it analyzes the relationships between participants and how they may have shaped what has occurred. The participant entities’ views on the other stakeholders, most notably how AES views the Ngöbe, are central to how these events have occurred, the choices have been made and the effects of these choices.

Note: Due to the desire of the researcher for the research to be available to participants of the events of Chan-75, the graphical chronology has been written in Spanish and the executive summery has been expanded to provide a fuller review of the paper.

Disciplines

Environmental Sciences | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Public Policy

 
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