Tag Archives: Ngäbes

Ngäbes protest hydroelectric dam

24 Mar

Ngäbes block the highway in protest of potential hydro projects

“It was not nice work, but given the pattern of the country’s development, it had to be done.” – John Steinbeck, East of Eden

After an early February victory against proposed mining projects, the indigenous Ngäbes (pronounced naw-bey) continue to struggle to prevent construction of hydroelectric dams that could negatively impact their environment. Negotiations continue, now with UN involvement, but it seems unlikely the Ngäbes will be able to stop hydroelectric construction much longer.

The struggle of one indigenous group in one small Central American country may seem irrelevant in the face of more publicized world issues, like Jeremy Lin, but their fight represents a consistent human choice to sacrifice the environment in favor of economic development.

Hydro in Panama

Panama’s government has its sights on 31 hydro projects by 2013, including seven near the borders of indigenous territory. The government claims that the projects will reduce national energy costs and increase national income through export. However, these have proved inadequate motivators for the indigenous of whom only 1% have electricity and who already do not trust the government to compensate them for absorbing the potential environmental impacts. 

While it is difficult to say exactly what negative impacts will result, previous hydro projects on indigenous land in Panama resulted in displacement due to flooding, increased mosquito breeding grounds (in a country with a dengue problem) and submersion of trees, vegetation and farmland.

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