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Campaign Update – Panama: Report Shows Government Plans More Dams


An investigative reporting crew released a documentary this month on Al Jazeera showing the protests and negotiations that have occurred regarding mining and hydro-electric projects in the Ngöbe-Bugle territory. The documentary shows the reservoir of the Chan-75 dam which submerged an entire Ngöbe community.  Construction is now underway for the Barro Blanco dam, which will submerge more Ngöbe communities. The Barro Blanco region is also the home of a critically endangered endemic species of frog.

A confidential report leaked to the investigators uncovered the government’s plans for many other hydro-electric projects, with contracts already signed. Filmmaker Glenn Elis reported: “Alongside each project listed were the names of the company directors involved - a roll call of Panama's wealthiest families. It was not difficult to put two and two together. Electricity is a commodity like anything else and if there is spare capacity it can be sold to energy-hungry consumers in neighbouring countries. Someone, it seemed, was going to get very rich.”

Two weeks ago, the government concluded negotiations with the Ngöbe people to pass a new law that prohibits all new mining projects and requires approval of the Ngöbe people for dam projects, but the Barro Blanco dam is excluded from this requirement, despite the protests of the Ngöbe people.

See the video on Al Jazeera’s website, here.