Plant's construction continues
PANAMA. The Changuinola Hydroelectrical Project in Bocas del Toro, which aims to serve Panama’s growing energy needs, continues as plan...
PANAMA. The Changuinola Hydroelectrical Project in Bocas del Toro, which aims to serve Panama’s growing energy needs, continues as planned. However, there are problems surrounding the project.
According to AES, more than 22 families now will have new homes thanks to the company’s Collaborative Relocation Program. Six out of 10 families have reached voluntary relocation agreements in Charco La Pava, as meetings with the rest of the communities continue.
This project is a clear example of the dilemma that the future of Panama’s energy supply presents, with the need to preserve both the environment and the inhabitants who have long called the affected land home.
The hydroelectric station, which will add 223 megawatts of clean, reliable energy to Panamanian consumers and potentially will decrease the cost of energy, has been declared a project of social interest by the government, as the country’s energy demand grows 5 percent on average every year.
Approximately 159 families (an estimated 800 people) from Changuinola Arriba, Charco La Pava, Valle del Rey and Guayabal will need to be relocated, as entire communities will be under water once the project is finished in 2010.
Earlier this year the indigenous community of Charco La Pava complained of harassment by policemen guarding the perimeter of the project’s site, while many still refuse to be evicted.
Last March, the environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) “Alianza para la Conservacion y el Desarollo” (ACD) and Cultural Survival filed a claim before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the possible human rights violations perpetrated against the Ngobe Buglé indigenous group living around the construction site.
Environmental groups complain that although the families received monetary compensation to move to the community of Finca 4, they don’t have drinking water, their lives have become more expensive, they have lost their community ties, and are confused by the modern life now surrounding them.
The company, however, argues that basic services in the areas where the residents were relocated have been historically deficient.
AES Changuinola is a subsidiary of AES Panama, the biggest hydroelectric company in the country, which operates the plants in Bayano and Estrella Los Valles, with an energy capacity of 470 megawatts.