Home Institution

University of South Carolina

Publication Date

Spring 2018

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


The Ngobe are Panama’s most populous indigenous group. While the Ngobe that live in the comarca have land and resource rights, those that live immediately outside of it do not. This issue has been exacerbated by the creation of Palo Seco Forest Reserve which has removed all land rights from the Ngobe living within it. In order to meet its growing demand for energy, Panama is expanding its hydroelectric sector. One such hydroelectric dam built by AES is Chan 75. However, Chan 75 has had a controversial history, especially regarding its treatment of the Ngobe people of the corregimiento Nance del Risco. The purpose of this study was to examine how land use has changed since the construction of the Chan 75 dam and how dam construction has impacted the livelihoods of community members in Nance del Risco. To assess this, vegetation change and forest loss analyses were run using Landsat satellite imagery. Additionally, a case study of the impacts of the dam on the Garcia family, who lived in Valle el Rey and were relocated by AES, was completed through interviews with 9 family members. Interviews were also conducted with community members from 6 other families impacted by the dam. It was found that vegetation near the reservoir and forest across Nance del Risco have decreased since the construction of the Chan 75 dam. Moreover, the dam has decreased the quality of life for the Garcia family, causing issues of transportation, money, and food availability which have in turn caused them to expand their agricultural land use. Similar problems were reported by the other families. Now, as more and more dams are planned and under construction across Panama, it is time to rethink the effects of hydroelectric dams on the communities that they are built in.


Earth Sciences | Environmental Health and Protection | Latin American Studies | Natural Resource Economics | Nature and Society Relations

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