The Panamanian government has decided to complete the planned Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam project despite the strong protests from indigenous communities.
The site of the hydroelectric dam is on the Tabasara River, which is the essential for livelihoods of Ngabe Bugle people. The river provides drinking water and fresh food for inhabitants around it.
If completed, locals fear the project could flood sacred sites, displace people and harm agriculture in the Ngabe Bugle area.
In an official statement revealing the government’s intention to continue the project, officials said they would take all necessary measures to protect the community surrounding the river while continuing the dialogue with them.
However, people in Ngabe Bugle are not satisfied. The community continues to protest in the form of hunger strikes and setting up blockades around the entrance of the dam site.
Indigenous leaders say the eviction of blockade protests would be taken as a “declaration of war” against the indigenous community.
The protests followed when UN-backed talks failed to reach an agreement between the government, the protestors and the companies behind the project.
The Panama government in February suspended the hydroelectric project temporarily to investigate alleged environmental violations committed by the project’s contractor company, however failed to finalise the environmental impact studies.
Divided indigenous groups teamed up to prevent the completion of the project.
Despite ongoing protests, the government seems to be set on finishing the project, with 95 percent of the project already complete.