Four proposed hydroelectric dam projects threaten free-flowing Panamanian rivers, rare tropical species, indigenous cultures and a biologically diverse World Heritage site in the remote rainforest of western Panama. Promoted by the Panamanian government, the Colombian-owned Hidroecologica del Teribe (HET), and the U.S.-based AES Corporation, the dam projects would forever alter the pristine rivers of the Changuinola/Teribe watershed.
HET would operate a dam on the Bonyic River, within indigenous Naso territory. The remaining three dams would be constructed and operated by AES Corporation, which has recently faced lawsuits in the Dominican Republic for the alleged dumping of rock-ash. AES also had to pull out of the controversial Bujagali dam project in Uganda for issues similar to those in Panama. And more than 5,000 people protested a proposed electric plant in El Salvador this summer. In Panama, construction of the lowest Changuinola dam alone would biologically deplete more than 500 miles of streams. These four dams and their roads, bridges, and power lines would devastate unique native fish, damage the ecosystem, and open the remote jungle to development.
La Amistad Reserve contains Central America's largest intact tropical rainforest, is a United Nations designated World Heritage site, and harbors incredible biodiversity including more than 40 species of fish. Most of the fish in the watershed depend on access to the ocean to complete their life cycles, but the dams would hinder migration, possibly leading to the disappearance of up to 11 aquatic species. The dams would also flood indigenous Naso and Ngobe territories, displacing several thousand people.
Please join the growing international movement to protect this ecological jewel and voice your opposition to the proposed Hydroelectric Projects.
Massive hydropower development is currently proposed for much of Mesoamerica that will industrialize the region in the name of free trade. More than 380 dams are currently proposed for the area, potentially affecting entire ecosystems and the biological diversity of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. Currently, the most critical dam threats are the proposed hydropower projects near the border of Panama and Costa Rica within the Changuinola/Teribe watershed, on the Rio Changuinola and its major tributary, the Rio Teribe, which flow out of the La Amistad International Peace Park and Biosphere Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage site), through the protected Palo Seco Forest Reserve and the territories of the Naso and Ngobe indigenous peoples, and into the Caribbean Sea through the Changuinola estuary, the center of the 40,000-acre San San/Pondsak wetlands (a Ramsar site).
La Amistad Reserve contains Central America's largest remaining intact tropical rainforest. Its vastness and greatly varied habitat shelter an impressive number of creatures, including nearly four percent of all terrestrial species varieties on Earth. La Amistad is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet, home to more than 40 species of fish, 250 species of reptiles and amphibians, 215 species of mammals and 600 species of birds, including the resplendent quetzal, three-wattled bellbird, bare-necked umbrella bird, harpy eagle, crested eagle, solitary eagle, orange-breasted falcon and 59 endemic bird species. This World Heritage site is one of the last refuges in western Panama for major species of felines such as the puma, ocelot, jaguarundi, tiger-cat and jaguar, as well as increasingly rare species such as tapirs. More than 180 endemic plant species and six endemic amphibians have been recorded at La Amistad.
Because Panama is a narrow isthmus, the Teribe and Changuinola Rivers are relatively short and intimately connected with the sea. Many of the fish and other aquatic creatures in these streams are diadromous, meaning they need access to saltwater at some stage in order to complete their life cycle. Some migrate downstream to the estuary to spawn, and their young must then make their way back upstream; others travel far upstream to reproduce and rely on currents to carry their eggs or larvae back to the sea. The dams would impede the life cycles and reproduction of the majority of fish and freshwater shrimp species in these rivers, eliminating much of the aquatic production, thus threatening fish species even below the dams. A potential consequence of the Changuinola projects and other hydropower projects proposed for Central America is the virtual disappearance of characteristic Mesoamerican river fauna, as has already occurred due to dam construction in the West Indies in places like Puerto Rico.
The Panamanian dam projects are being developed by the Colombian utility Empresas Publicas de Medellin (EPM); the Panamanian generator Hidroecologica del Teribe (HET); and the U.S.-based AES Corporation, a self-described "Global Power Company." Collaborators on the AES dams include Vattenfall AB of Sweden, E. Pihl & S?n A.S of Denmark, MT H?jgaard a/s of Denmark, and Alstom of Brazil. The Colombian corporation was seeking funding for the Bonyic project from the Inter-American Development Bank, but the project is so controversial that in 2005 the bank suspended consideration of loans for the project. As of September 2007, AES Corporation is securing funding and partners and has begun preliminary works on the remaining three dams, which would be located on the Changuinola River.
The Panama National Environmental Authority (ANAM) has approved flawed Environmental Impact Assessments that do not consider the impacts to the World Heritage site. It also granted a concession of 6,000 hectares to AES Corporation within the Palo Seco Forest Reserve, upon which to begin construction of the three Changuinola dams. These dams will cause massive damage to the biodiversity of the ecosystem and flood indigenous villages, effectively displacing thousands of people. Despite strong local opposition to any relocation, the company and government have developed plans to relocate several thousand Ngobe people living near the AES dam sites. These plans fail to comport with indigenous decision-making norms.
Please join the efforts of the Naso and Ngobe indigenous peoples, Panamanian organizations and a growing international movement to protect these important Central American rivers. Voice your opposition to the Bonyic Project to Hidroecologica del Teribe, S.A., and to the Changuinola Projects to AES Corporation and its collaborators. Please call Paul Hanrahan, President of AES, at (703) 522-1315, and let him know it is not acceptable for a U.S. company to fund the destruction of Panama's free-flowing rivers.
Subject: Cancel Changuinola/Teribe Hydroelectric Projects
Please do not further fund or participate in the hydroelectric projects along the Changuinola and Bonyic Rivers in Bocas del Toro Province, Panama. These projects would have devastating consequences for the ecology of the free-flowing Changuinola and Bonyic Rivers and their tributaries and unacceptable impacts on the wildlife of adjacent La Amistad International Park, an internationally designated World Heritage site and part of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve.
Your corporation's involvement in these projects is not in line with any code of business conduct and ethics. For AES in particular, its involvement runs completely counter to AES's "commitment to be environmentally responsible." The dams and infrastructure would devastate the region's unique native fish, negatively impact the entire ecosystem of the Changuinola/Teribe watershed and open this remote jungle for development. The Changuinola dams would also flood portions of indigenous Ngobe territory, displacing thousands of people. All participation in these projects by Empresas Publicas de Medellin, Hidroecologica del Teribe, and AES Corporation and its collaborators within the Changuinola Civil Works Joint Venture (Vattenfall AB of Sweden, E. Pihl & S?n A.S of Denmark, MT H?jgaard a/s of Denmark, and Alstom Brazil) should be terminated.
Please do not continue with or fund any further construction activities for these dams that would impact La Amistad Biosphere Reserve and rare species in the Changuinola/Teribe watershed. I urge you to protect the intact tropical rainforest and free-flowing streams of western Panama for the benefit of rare wildlife, indigenous people and international tourism.
YOUR NAME HERE
Alstom Brazil, Aloisio, Vasconcelos, Alameda Campinas 463-15? floor, Jardim Paulista, Sao Paulo, Brazil, email@example.com
General Manager AES Panama, Javier, Giorgio, Apartado Postal 0816-01990, Panam?, Republica de Panama, LA.Development@aes.com
Project Director AES Changuinola S.A., Humberto, Gonzalez, Apartado Postal 0816-01990, Panama, Republica de Panama, LA.Development@aes.com
Hidroecologica del Teribe S.A., Hi-Tech Plaza Piso 6, Ciudad de Panama, Republica de Panama, +5072146366
Empresas Publicas de Medell?n, firstname.lastname@example.org
General Administrator National Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM), Ligia, Castro de Doens, email@example.com
General Subadministrator National Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM), Eduardo, Reyes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Managing Watersheds National Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM), Hilda, Candanedo, email@example.com
Director of Protecting Environmental Quality National Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM), Natalia, Young, firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Protected Areas National Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM), Aleida Salazar, email@example.com
Minister of Tourism, Ruben, Blades, Instituto Panamean de Turismo, Israel San Francisco Apdo. Postal: 4421 Zona 5, Panama, Republica de Panama