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The imprisoned water. At a glance and many edges

The imprisoned water. At a glance and many edges

By Biodiversity

This time we present an overview of the impacts of dams, be they irrigation, hydroelectric or water storage, on the regions, economies, ecology and lives of the millions of displaced people who have suffered firsthand “development” decisions. "Taken elsewhere and other times by outsiders who care nothing but" the greatest common good "- one defined very ambiguously and tendentiously.


This time we present an overview of the impacts of dams, be they irrigation, hydroelectric or water storage, on the regions, economies, ecology and lives of the millions of displaced people who have suffered firsthand “development” decisions. "Taken elsewhere and other times by outsiders who care nothing but" the greatest common good "- one defined very ambiguously and tendentiously.

The fragments of communiqués, studies, reports, reports and reflections come as always from many places. They do not exhaust a hot topic that could fill the pages of several issues of Biodiversity. This is only a first review, which I hope will encourage more searches, one of the objectives of this section.

Dams alter the natural functioning of rivers. Peoples under the waters, expropriated territories, livelihoods of disappeared riverside communities, displaced people, broken pacts with those affected, damage to the environment ...

Although the immediate benefits used to be considered sufficient to justify the huge investments, the total cost of large dams is today a serious public concern.

The economic justification has not been realized in the irrigation, water supply and public hygiene systems. Neither in flood control or electricity production. The environmental impacts are more negative than positive and entail irreparable losses of species and ecosystems. The physical displacement of affected people, all too often involuntary, involves coercion and force, and in some cases loss of life ...

After the World Commission on Dams questioned the efficiency of these works, in Europe a framework directive was approved in order to restore the good condition of rivers, and a change in the concept of resource management ... based on respect to the rivers for what they are and to the people who inhabit their valleys for their culture and identity, betting on alternative energies that are more respectful of the environment… [then] several Spanish companies went to other places where they are allowed to continue making juicy economic cuts for abusing natural resources, without taking into account the environmental and social imbalances that the scientific community worldwide denounces as a consequence of the more than 45 thousand dams built. These entities are supported by a recent initiative of the Spanish government that created a Business Forum to defend interests in Latin America. Senior officials from the Spanish government and some of the top executives of 12 companies participate: Telefónica, Banco Santander and bbva, Repsol, Endesa, Iberdrola, Unión Fenosa, Gas Natural, Agbar, Prisa, Sol Meliá, acs. Report of the Coordinator of People Affected by Large Dams and Transfers, June 2005

Big scam is the El Cajon dam in Mexico. A few years ago the story circulated: “And now how do we tell President Fox that we are wrong”, commented the Secretary of Energy, Ernesto Martens, to Manuel Frías Alcaraz, a former official of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), who had it convinced that the El Cajón hydroelectric project - the most famous infrastructure work of Vicente Fox's government - had "serious conceptual and planning flaws."

Frías Alcaraz refers that he met privately with Martens and the undersecretary of Electricity of the Ministry of Energy (Sener), Nicéforo Guerrero, at the beginning of October 2001, to tell them that the hydroelectric plant was not going to work because its main problem would be the lack of of water to support normal operation. He warned them: "You are going to have to wait until unfortunately it no longer produces when they finish it."

In February of that year Ingenieros Civiles Asociados (ica) and its partners won the tender to build the El Cajón hydroelectric plant in Nayarit. Congress authorized $ 812 million. Surprised, Frías Alcaraz expresses: “I thought they were going to reflect. It is a project with problems of continuous and reliable operation, and of low profitability. It is a mistake to have selected this work ”.

Frías Alcaraz relates that Martens expressed his disbelief. "He said to me: 'How is it possible that with a work of this magnitude, with so much experience in Mexican engineering and in the CFE for these projects, we are going to be wrong? They are projects that have been studied for many years. "

Several times he explained to Martens and Nicéforo Guerrero that the defects of the work were not in the hydroelectric engineering itself, but in the chosen site, since it did not have enough water. He then asked them to present the situation in those terms to President Fox, “because it is not fair that the people of Mexico have to pay for your mistakes. Define correctly the line of responsibilities. It is not fair that an entire institution and an entire government pay the consequences ”.

Frías Alcaraz attributes the silence of Martens and Nicéforo Guerrero to the fact that the work was already approved by Congress and the resources budgeted by the Ministry of Finance, in addition to having the approval of experts from Mexico and abroad. Fernando Ortega, “El Cajón. A dam that will have no water ”. Contralínea, June 11, 2003.

Bolivia ratified its "concern" about the environmental impact "Which will have the Santo Antonio and Jirau dams, on the Madeira River about 100 kilometers from the border with Bolivia," said Bolivian Deputy Minister of the Environment, Juan Pablo Ramos.

The findings are contained in studies carried out by the Bolivian authorities, handed over to the Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, by his Bolivian counterpart, David Choquehuanca, during the meeting they held the day before in Brasilia, Ramos explained.

One of the biggest concerns is that the water bodies created by the dams could favor the proliferation of tropical diseases such as dengue or malaria, in an Amazon area with potential risks, he said.

Ramos denied versions of the signing of an agreement through which Bolivia would cease its claims and stated that, on the contrary, Brazil has recognized "for the first time" that the matter must be discussed and negotiated ...

According to the project under development, both dams will cause the flooding of an area of ​​about 500 square kilometers and the works will cost more than 12 billion dollars.

The works beds were visited the day before by the Brazilian head of state, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who guaranteed that the government has created groups to monitor working conditions and the possible environmental impact of the constructions.

Last December, the Brazilian environmental authorities fined the consortium in charge of Santo Antonio with 3.35 million dollars for the death of eleven tons of fish during the first phase of the works, in which the waters of the river were contained to lay the foundations of the dam. Efe Agency, The reason, March 13, 2009

On the eve of the International Day of Action Against Dams, the Second Assembly of the Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (mab) or Movement of People Affected by Dams addressed the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (incra), in a peaceful demonstration, animated by songs in defense of the rights of the peoples affected and banners with messages such as: "Dams for what and for whom?" o "Water and energy are not merchandise."

Women and men of all ages traveled 5 kilometers to the incra and entered its facilities. A group representing Bolivia, a country that would also be affected by the construction of the dams on the Madeira or Madera rivers, accompanied the riparian demonstration. Although it seemed that incra officials had "every" predisposition to have a peaceful meeting with the protesters, twelve heavily armed federal police officers suddenly entered the compound with machine guns and tear gas and detained six Bolivians who were in the incra cafe. . They were escorted to the Federal Police and then deported. Despite the outrage, the protesters concluded the meeting peacefully.

This reveals the direct relationship between the struggle without borders for human rights and repression without borders. The interests that are defended by capital are the same everywhere and even tend to have the same repressive and offensive expressions. Latin American Network Against Dams and for Rivers, Communities and Water Redlar (March 2009)

The fight against the Sardar Sarovar dam in India it has come to represent much more than the fight for a river. This has been his strength, but also his weakness. By generating debate, the stakes increased and the complexion of the battle changed. From being a fight where the destiny of a river valley was at stake, it began to question the entire political system. The very nature of our democracy was at stake. Who owns the land. Who owns the rivers, the forests, the fish. These are huge questions. And the state takes them very seriously. And he answers them with a single voice through each of the institutions that obey him: the army, the police, the bureaucracy, the courts. And he not only answers them, he answers them unambiguously, in bitter and brutal ways.

For the people of the valley, the fact that the stakes are raised to this degree means that their most effective weapon - the specifics about specifics in this specific valley - has been blunted by the debate over the big things.

The basic premise of the argument exploded into fragments that faded over time. From time to time a piece of the puzzle floats around - an emotional account of the horrible treatment the government has meted out to the displaced; a scolding from on high for the fact that "a handful of activists" are holding the nation hostage; a reporter reports on the progress of the lawsuits that now reach the Supreme Court ...

Experts and consultants kidnap some of those aspects - displacement, rehabilitation, hydrology, drainage, water collection, water treatment, passion, politics - and take them to their lairs to protect them from the unauthorized curiosity of ordinary people. Social anthropologists conduct acrimonious debates with economists over the jurisdiction of research. Engineers refuse to talk politics when they present their proposals. But disconnecting politics from economics, from emotion and the human tragedy of uprooting is like breaking up a musical ensemble. The parts no longer sound the same. The noise remains but it is not understood ... Arundhati Roy, The Algebra of Infinite Justice, 2001.

We are going to ask them to leave their homes after we finish the dam curtain. If they leave, everything will be fine. Otherwise, we will release the waters and everyone will drown. Morarji Desai, speaking at a meeting for the people of the Pong Dam flood zone in 1961. See: Patrick MacCully, Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams, Orient Longman, 1998.

The dam gradually eliminated the economy and livelihoods of those affected: "Commercial and subsistence fishermen, artisan manufacturers of bricks and tiles, collectors of reeds for roofing quinchos, washerwomen, owners of small shipyards, farmers, both on the Paraguayan and Argentine margins, in the provinces of Misiones and Corrientes." Under the 100,000 hectares flooded, there have been stories, cultures and an environmental impact not yet suspected.

To this is added that the Paraná river in that part is contaminated by three Chilean capital bins. “The Paraguayans complain about the bad use that is given to the river, for not having impact studies of these bins. In Paraguay, the entire population that was transferred to these ghettos does not have a job and has nothing to live on. Where did they go? To the dump to compete with the pigs, the dogs and the rats. I tell it and it makes me cry, because I remember what I saw in San Cosme, in Encarnación, in so many places ”, adds Coco. Testimonies of those affected by the Yaciretá dam on the Paraná River. http://picasaweb.google.es/afectadosyacyreta

Historical settlers of the Ibáñez river valley and the Baker basin, in Chile, together with residents of Coyhaique, Puerto Aysén, Bahía Murta and Cochrane, among other localities, emphasized the need to regain ownership of water for the current and future subsistence of the Aysén communities, questioning that today the water resources of Patagonia are are mostly in the hands of Chilean and foreign electricity companies. His words were supported by dozens of canvases and posters with the slogan "Give back the waters."

Francisco, son of the Villa Cerro Castillo resident, Juan Antrillao Hueitra (accompanied by his father), pointed out: “many times the people of HidroAysén and those who say they are in favor of this project say that we are not representative. We grew up with the waters of the Ibáñez River, we lived, we cultivated the land, and our parents left their lives and youth in these mountains ”. He added that "we are the most indicated to say: stop, gentlemen of HidroAysén, we do not want to be run over once more, because this seems like a second colonization" Testimonies of those affected by the transnational Endesa. www.mapuexpress.net, March 15, 2009

The Constitutional Court of Ecuador ordered the Ministry of the Environment review the environmental authorization of the Baba Multipurpose Project (pmb) and reformulate the terms of the environmental license. He ordered the comptroller general to audit the procedures for conducting and approving environmental impact studies and assessments. According to its decision of December 15, there are risks of causing severe and irreversible impacts on Ecuadorian biodiversity, which were not properly valued, as experts from the Inter-American Development Bank had even concluded.

This resolution of the highest Ecuadorian court is the consequence of the amparo action filed by Ecolex in May 2007, which was rejected in the first instance. The appeal before the Court (now the Constitutional Court) insisted that human rights to a healthy environment, water, property, work, food and consultation, among others, were affected. aida and the organizations International Rivers and Fian Internacional support the appeal, denouncing the violations of international environmental and human rights standards, binding on the Ecuadorian State. Elaw experts from the United States had reported on the serious flaws of the environmental impact study.

"This decision is an immense victory for the affected communities and for the country, as it reiterates that environmental protection is also in the national interest," said Silvana Rivadeneira from Ecolex and the lawyer in the case.

The pmb would imply the flooding of more than a thousand hectares of important ecosystems in the Los Ríos province, affecting the riverside populations of the Baba, Quevedo and Vinces rivers. The project was authorized by the Ministry of the Environment in November 2006 and is in charge of the company Hidronación sa, which took over the construction of the project after the Brazilian company Odebrecht was expelled from the country by the Ecuadorian government.

“The Baba Project is an example of what clean energy is not and on the contrary, it could contribute to worsening climate change. The Court's decision confirms its lack of sustainability, ”said Monti Aguirre of International Rivers.

“Given the negative effects on the environment, people and climate change of large hydroelectric plants - which is why we support demand - ordering the comprehensive evaluation of the Baba Project is excellent news. We will be awaiting the review, and we hope that this decision will serve as a precedent for the hundreds of hydroelectric projects that are underway in the Americas, with failures very similar to Baba's, ”said Astrid Puentes, co-director of aida. Fian International Press Release, aida, Ecolex, International Rivers, January 2009. See http://www.fian.org


The governments of Ecuador and Iran signed an agreement on Thursday for the financing and construction of two hydroelectric projects. This will cover 60% of the total cost of the new plants.

The projects benefiting from the agreement are the Quijos-Baeza dam, with the capacity to generate 100 megawatts, and the Luis River dam, which could produce 15 megawatts. Iranian construction company Farab would assume the construction of these plants.

The agreement was signed between the Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, Alecksey Mosquera, and his counterpart from the Ministry of Energy of Iran, Hamid Chitchian. The pre-agreement determines that the 40% financing that corresponds to Ecuador must be delivered, which has more than 10 hydroelectric projects, analyzed by Iran and that perhaps could be financed. AméricaEconomía.com, March 6, 2009

In Mexico, neoliberal capitalism and the federal and state governments have recently imposed economic development policies with the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Puebla Panama Plan, today the Mesoamerican Project. They are projects of mining exploitation, construction of dams for the generation of energy, wind corridors and road infrastructure that facilitate commercial exchange. This model has put a price on land, rivers, forests, water, minerals, even the territories of indigenous peoples and peasants.

The Paso de la Reina multi-use hydroelectric project is included in this context, which they intend to impose on us in the municipalities of Santiago Ixtayutla, Santa Cruz Zenzontepec, Santiago Tetepec, Santiago Jamiltepec, Tataltepec de Valdés and San Pedro Tututepec, Oaxaca.

For the above reasons and in light of the stupidity of the Federal Electricity Commission to carry out this project, the Mixtec, Chatinos, Afro-descendant and mestizo peoples of the affected communities decided to organize ourselves in the United Peoples Council for the Defense of the Río Verde in order to stop this megaproject.

Men and women, from the municipalities and affected communities, as well as civil organizations, community organizations, national networks, social movements, we met in Tataltepec de Valdés on February 27 and 28, 2009, in the V Forum for the Defense of Water, the Territory and the Development of Indigenous Peoples, in order to strengthen regional articulation and alliances, to take joint actions in the defense of natural resources. And we consider:

That the multi-use hydroelectric project Paso de la Reina endangers the lives of the indigenous peoples and peasants of the region. It represents a threat to the ecosystem of the Verde River basin and the Chacahua National Park, among others. The project only benefits large transnational companies and leads to the forced displacement of communities from their territories. It violates the most fundamental rights of indigenous and peasant peoples such as self-determination, consultation and information, and deciding on the management of their lands, territories, and natural resources. Council of United Peoples for the Defense of the Verde River, February 28, 2009

In Colombia, the national government declared of public utility and social interest the land necessary for the construction and operation of the El Quimbo hydroelectric project. The hydroelectric project is located in the south of the department of Huila, on the upper basin of the Magdalena River, in the jurisdiction of the municipalities of Garzón, Gigante, El Agrado and Altamira.

"To fulfill this purpose, a dam will be built on the riverbed, forming a reservoir whose fall is used in a superficial power station that then discharges the turbined flows to the Magdalena river itself, downstream from the dam site." The declaration of public utility was made in favor of the Energy Generating Company (Emgesa), through resolution number 321 of September 1, 2008, after a request processed before the Ministry of Mines and Energy. The decree explains that by official letter, the Ethnic Group of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice certified that in this area "there were no indigenous or black communities that could be affected by the development of the hydroelectric project." For its part, the Incoder certified that according to the project's coordinates "it does not intersect or overlap with territory legally titled to indigenous reservations or lands of black communities."

Fortunately, the Directorate of Environmental Licenses, Permits and Procedures notified Emgesa to initiate the discharges in compliance with Resolution 227 of February 11, 2009, by means of which "a charge is filed against Emgesa for allegedly initiating the construction of the El Quimbo hydroelectric project ... without having an environmental license, in breach of current environmental regulations ". Here there is no room for greater illusions. Those who judge will end up subordinate to the multinational Emgesa because there are powerful economic and political interests that will impose, by force, the immediate granting of the environmental license to Emgesa, ignoring the majority voices and solid arguments in opposition to the project. Even if the environmental license is granted, we will continue with the civil resistance. See communications from the Southern Platform of Social Organizations, February 2009.

Three towns are threatened with death, once again, in the name of development: Temacapulín, Acasico and Palmarejo, in the Altos de Jalisco, Mexico. The federal and state governments intend to impose at all costs the construction of a water storage dam, called the Zapotillo dam, which will result in the flooding of the entire region.

At first, the water authorities constantly denied the existence of the project and later, once the alleged work had been recognized, the federal and state authorities have not stopped harassing the inhabitants and owners of properties in the affected areas with various strategies: rigged meetings with villagers, house-to-house intimidation, organization of large parties and feasts - where beer is offered in exchange for deeds - the conviction of some residents who serve as government intermediaries, telephone calls to the homes of absent or migrant children (regardless of whether They are in Guadalajara, Monterrey or the United States), flyers that they leave under the doors, radio spots and a long etcetera.

The majority response of the residents is always the same: “we don't want your prey”, “make it elsewhere”, “we don't refuse to share the river's water, but don't flood us”, “let us live in peace”. This refusal has been made known to the authorities by all the means that have been possible: meetings, letters, marches, rallies, caravans, flyers, press conferences, peaceful mobilizations at the site where the dam is being built, to the Congress of the State, to the municipal presidencies, to the offices of the National Water Commission, of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, of the government of Jalisco.

The contempt the federal and state water authorities have for people is terrifying. In January 2008, the regional manager of the Cuenca de la Conagua Organism, Raúl Antonio Iglesias Benítez, in the face of opposition from the residents, declared: "they leave or drown, we are going to buy them boats and life jackets so they don't worry." The population has been required to present technical alternatives for solving the region's water problems, when it is the government who should be looking for them, since they have the resources, the means and the obligation to do so. From their knowledge, the peoples of the world are aware that large dams are not the solution to water problems and that they cannot be considered a sustainable energy alternative. These types of dams end up polluting and killing rivers, like all stagnant water, and contribute to an increase in global warming.

For this reason, during the patron saint festivities in January, the festival went from nostalgia to resistance, from anger to joy, from hopelessness to courage. People have no idea what the government has in store for them, but they know that they are not going to leave, some have decided that they will wait for the water, while still looking for someone who wants to listen. In the assembly of residents of Temacapulín, together with the Salvemos Temaca committees of Guadalajara, Monterrey, Federal District, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Tijuana, all the children of Temaca, those absent and present, ratified their rejection of the dam and its Willingness to continue fighting, against what they themselves called a crime of "foolish" humanity. Claudia Godoy, Coa Collective, March 2009

In Panama, the authorities of Bocas del Toro began the persecution of Naso and Ngobe indigenous leaders since last Friday, March 27, after the massive protests on Sunday 22, World Water Day. A crowd of indigenous people took to the streets and closed traffic in various parts of the province, demonstrating against the hydroelectric, mining and tourist projects that affect their territories and their way of life.

Their way of life and livelihoods are increasingly threatened by megaprojects such as the Bonyik hydroelectric dam proposed by Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) of Colombia, by coastal developments for retirees and by the expansion of the livestock industry. Their displacement has forced some members of the 11 Naso communities to work on the banana plantations that have made transnational corporations famous in Central America.

The Bonyik project, one of four dams planned for the Teribe River, is so controversial that in 2005 the Inter-American Development Bank suspended the consideration of the credits for its construction that EPM, a company based in Colombia, a neighboring country of Panama, had sought. But aes Corp, based in the United States, has continued to seek financing. With information from Talli Nauman, ecoportal.com, and Olmedo Carrasquilla II, [email protected]

They assured us ad nauseam that with that sea of ​​oil we would sail in glory. And we believed it. Then Caño Limón exploded, which meant its destruction for the Guahibo people. Alcoholism, prostitution, violence and uprooting. Today, twenty-five years later, the guahibo is injured, Caño Limón is exhausted and the development that they predicted was a fallacy.

Then they stated that the overflows of the Sinú would end with the dam; With these arguments they built Urrá which also flooded the Embera Katio people. They took their fish, they killed Kimy, Lucindo, they displaced them. Today, six years later, the Sinú overflowed the dam, leading to misery thousands of fishermen and peasants who lost everything they had. Cerro Tijeras indigenous council, Altamira, Colombia, September 6, 2007

Waters for life and not for death. This is how the activists of the Movement two Atingidos por Barragens (mab) of Brazil shout with courage and conviction, being today a slogan that travels the planet on the lips of the millions affected by large dams and movements allied to this cause.

In Brazil, the dams expelled nearly 1 million people and more than 34 thousand square kilometers of surface were flooded by reservoirs. mab denounces that these projects primarily benefit transnational companies that appropriate nature and destroy life in the name of "development" and profit.

Argentina has, for different purposes, some 130 dams. There are currently four national tenders underway in the provinces of Neuquén, Mendoza, Catamarca and Santa Cruz. In the province of Corrientes, a private group presented a project to dam the Ayuí stream, which will flood 8 thousand hectares for an agro-industrial purpose. The call for pre-classification of consortiums of consulting firms for the feasibility study of Corpus Christi on the Paraná River is also underway and the Camargo Correa group engineering company has already been installed in Buenos Aires to carry out studies for the Garabí dam on the Uruguay river. www.pescapira.com.ar

The construction of the La Parota hydroelectric dam in Guerrero, Mexico was suspended. It was considered one of the most important investment projects of the Fox government, but federal judge Livia Larumbe Radilla granted a definitive suspension in amparo to the residents of the municipality of Cacahuatepec, Guerrero, and ordered the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE ) to immediately stop construction of the reservoir.

La resolución ordena “que las cosas se mantengan en el estado en que actualmente se encuentran y las autoridades se abstengan de autorizar la explotación, uso y aprovechamiento de las aguas nacionales del río Papagayo para el proyecto hidroeléctrico La Parota, por los daños irreversibles a los quejosos que viven en Cacahuatepec”.

Este megaproyecto, emprendido hace cuatro años, provocó fuerte resistencia de los pobladores que resultarían afectados y de movimientos ambientalistas, quienes argumentan que la construcción de la presa provocaría el desplazamiento de 25 mil personas, la inundación de 17 300 hectáreas y un grave deterioro ecológico.

Los opositores al proyecto formaron una agrupación denominada Consejo de Ejidos y Comunidades Opositores a La Parota (cecop).

Esta lucha no ha estado exenta de víctimas: tres campesinos fueron asesinados por impedir que la cfe construyera el embalse. Los campesinos han enfrentado constantes amenazas de expropiación de tierras por parte del gobierno federal. Alfredo Méndez, La Jornada, 14 de septiembre, 2007

India presume de ser la tercera constructora de presas más grande del mundo. Según la Comisión Central de Aguas, tenemos 3 600 presas que califican como grandes, de las cuales 3 300 se construyeron después de la independencia… Según un estudio detallado sobre 54 grandes presas, realizado por el Instituto de Administración Pública de India, el número promedio de gente desplazada por cada represa en el país es de 44 182 personas… para errar cautelosamente, quitémosle la mitad a ese número. O mejor, erremos del lado excesivo de cautela y digamos que el promedio de personas desplazadas es de apenas 10 mil por represa grande. Es una cifra muy baja e improbable, pero bueno, no le hace… saquen sus calculadoras: 3 300 presas por 10 mil personas, suman 33 millones de personas desplazadas.

Desplazadas en India tan sólo por las grandes presas en 50 años. Si a eso les sumamos los desplazados por otros proyectos de desarrollo en la región la suma crece a 50 millones, de los cuales 57.6 son adivasis, el mayor pueblo indígena de India. Cincuenta millones es casi tres veces la población de Australia. Más de tres veces los refugiados producidos por la partición de India. Diez veces el número de refugiados palestinos. El mundo occidental se convulsionó por el futuro de un millón que había huido de Kosovo. Arundhati Roy, El álgebra de la justicia infinita, 2001.

Revista Biodiversidad, sustento y culturas – Abril – Graim


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