Campaign Update – Honduras: Dam Construction Speeds Ahead in Violation of Indigenous Rights

A recent article in the Honduran press declared that the Patuca III project in Olancho, Honduras, is now 20 percent through its first phase of construction. Work was initiated in June with various construction projects in the municipalities of Juticalpa, Catacamas, and Patuca, reported La Tribuna.  The article says the government will compensate over 200 property owners who will be relocated, but it doesn’t mention the thousands of Indigenous people who live downstream from the dam site and whose lives and livelihoods will be altered by the dam. Project developers have not consulted the Tawahka, Miskitu, Pech, and Garifuna peoples who live downstream along the Patuca River. The Indigenous communities have been protesting plans for dam construction on the Patuca since the first dam was proposed in the mid-1990s. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples includes their right to free, prior, and informed consent for development projects that would affect them.  Property owners at the dam site itself protested their eviction in October.

 Despite the optimism expressed by the Honduras government which is reflected in the national press regarding this new source of energy for  Honduras and for export to other countries, scientists say that much more information is needed to adequately evaluate the potential environmental and social impacts of Patuca III.  For example, Dr. Erik Nielsen, Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy at Northern Arizona University, wrote:

There exist almost no biological, hydrological, physical, or social data for the downstream affected region of the project.  A project of this scale to be built to World Bank or Inter-American Development Bank standards, with no scientific data, and directly affecting indigenous peoples would require at least two years of data collection and a year of public review to meet the minimum requirements and develop a comprehensive mitigation plan….Given the unknown yet potentially extensive downstream environmental and social consequences of damming the second largest river in Central America and the potential indirect impacts of creating access to the largest expanse of tropical rainforest north of the Amazon Basin and consequent effects on indigenous peoples, the environmental studies to date are insufficient against any international standard or quality or protections for dam building.”

 Please see our action alert to halt construction on the Patuca III dam, and write a letter to President Lobo here.