Indigenous People From Panama Travel to Washington, D.C. to Condemn Carbon Market


Indigenous People from Panama travel to Washington to condemn the carbon market

“The Clean Development Mechanism could be used to finance the
destruction of our homelands,” say representatives of the Naso and Ngobe people.

A group of Naso and Ngobe Indigenous Peoples from Western Panama will arrive today
in Washington, D. C. to take part in a hearing at the Inter-American Human Rights
Commission (IAHRC) on Tuesday October 28. The indigenous representatives will give
evidence of the discrimination, abuse, and displacement that they have been
suffering from Empresas Publicas de Medellin (Colombia), AES Corporation (United
States), and the Government of Panama, who are together constructing four
hydroelectric dams on the land of the Indigenous Peoples in the La Amistad Biosphere

The representatives from the Naso and Ngobe people say that the
construction of these dams will destroy their traditional livelihood and homelands,
and that their land rights and informed consent have been denied to them by the
Government of Panama.

The projects have also been condemned for their impacts on the biological diversity
of San San Wetlands Ramsar Site and the La Amistad International Park UNESCO World
Heritage Site.  In early January, a team of scientists discovered three new species
of amphibians on the Costa Rican side of the Park, [1] and months later, a UNESCO
mission demanded the Government of Panama to present a complete report of the
impacts that these hydroelectric projects will have on the aquatic fauna of the Teribe and Changuinola Rivers.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, certain projects in countries in the developing world are
eligible to generate profits by selling carbon credits as part of the Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM). In the last four years, the Government of Panama, with
the active support of the European Union and the Central American Commission for
Environment and Development, has been promoting these hydroelectric projects as
eligible for the CDM. Research has shown that many such projects included in the CDM
have not represented additional emissions reductions as well as having disastrous
consequences for local communities. [2]

Feliciano Santos of the Ngobe people said that, “We are calling on the
international community to respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples and condemn the utilization of the Clean Development Mechanism to finance
projects that will destroy the lives, properties, and environments of Indigenous
Peoples in Panama and around the world.”

Felix Sanchez of the Naso people said that, “These dams threaten the very
existence of our people. If governments in Europe and the US want to make emissions
reductions, they should make them in their own countries rather than using the
carbon market to impose destructive projects on communities in the developing

As the indigenous representatives made preparations to travel to the United States,
the CDM Executive Board opened for review one of the most discredited of these
projects, the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project, that will affect the ancestral
territories of the Ngobe along the Tabasara River.  An earlier version of this
project called Tabasara I, that was planned to be developed together with the
neighboring Tabasara II, sparked violent clashes between the Ngobe people, local
farmers, and the National Police, in which many men, women and children were beaten
and arbitrarily incarcerated.  After the Supreme Court suspended the approval of the
environmental impact assessment (EIA) for Tabasara II, Tabasara I has now been
modified, renamed as Barro Blanco, and concessioned to the Panamanian energy company Generadora del Istmo, S.A.

For further comment or to speak with the indigenous representatives, please contact
Osvaldo Jordan (Alianza para la Conservacion y el Desarrollo) or Monti Aguirre (International Rivers) on (508) 450-9580,, or

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Notes to the editor

[1] See

[2] See the International Rivers report ‘Failed Mechanism: How the CDM is
subsidizing hydro developers and harming the Kyoto Protocol.’

The report shows that the great majority of hydros in the CDM would very likely be
built regardless of receiving credits (in CDM-jargon they are “non-additional”), in
contravention of the mechanism’s basic principle. The CDM was designed to issue
credits to projects that are “additional” projects which are only being built
because they receive revenue from selling carbon credits. Each CDM credit sold from
a “non-additional” project means one extra tonne of CO2 is released to the


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