Friday, June 17, 2011

Peru cancels massive dam project after years of protests

16 June 2011

Three years of sustained community opposition have brought down plans for a massive dam on the Madre de Dios River in Peru. Yesterday the Peruvian government announced it was terminating the contract with Empresa de Generaci├│n El├ęctrica Amazonas Sur (Egasur) to build a 1.5 gigawatt dam, known as the Inambari Dam. The dam was one of six that were agreed upon between Peru and Brazil to supply the latter with energy.

"Although this resolution does not prevent the construction of all dams in the Inambari Basin, it is very important because it clearly cancels EGASUR’s participation. The resolution states that all future proposed projects must be subjected to prior consultation with local communities," said Aldo Santos, from local NGO SER (Rural Educational Services), in a press release. 

The cancellation follows a month long strike by 2,000 people against the dam as well as mining and oil projects in the region.

If built, the Inambari Dam would have inundated 46,000 hectares of rainforest and impacted the agricultural livelihoods of thousands of people. The dam would also have flooded 120 kilometers of the only-just finished Inter-Oceanic Highway.

"Even though the project is cancelled we know that we have won the battle but not the war. We know there are too many interests behind construction of Inambari, especially the interests of the Brazilians and their energy thirst,” said Olga Cutipa, President of the Front to Defend the Inambari-San Gaban.

A year ago Peru signed and Energy Agreement with Brazil to supply 7 gigawatts of hydropower to Brazil. The agreement was based on a series of six planned hydroelectric projects in the Peruvian Amazon, of which the Inambari would have been the largest. Following the cancellation, the agreement may be in jeopardy. However, the Inambari Dam could still re-emerge. The resurrection of the Belo Monte dam in Brazil after a decade is proof that such large projects are rarely, if ever, truly defeated.

The fate of the Inambari Dam, and the regions and people it would impact, now lies with newly-elected Peruvian President, Ollanta Humala.

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