Peru: is Inambari hydro-dam project really cancelled?

Residents in potentially impacted areas of Puno and Madre de Dios regions of the Peruvian Amazon agreed to call off their protest roadblocks when the government announced cancellation of the Inambari hydro-electric dam this week. But Puno congressman Yonhy Lescano charged that the announcement was a “trick” by the government to defuse the protest movement and buy time to move ahead with the project definitively. “There hasn’t been any solution to this issue, the concession has not been cancelled; they have only put an end to the temporary concession that the company had, but the process will continue,” he said. “Already they are preparing the definitive concession, although the people of Puno are against it, and are demanding its cancellation.”

Although the decree ostensibly halting the project, Ministerial Resolution 265-2011-MEM, was published in the official newspaper El Peruano on June 15, Lescano said it only cancelled the preliminary contract with a Brazilian company to do a study for the project—which had been completed anyway. He demanded a new decree assuring that the project will be halted permanently. “They are only pretending the danger has passed to silence the protests of the people,” he said. “Later, it will be demonstrated that the end of the Inambari concession was false.”

He further charged that the project was a bad deal for local residents, who would be left dealing with the environmental damage, while 90% of the energy generated by the dam would be exported to Brazil. (Diario 16, Lima, June 15)

However, Vice-minister of Energy Gonzales Talledo, who led the “high-level commission” dispatched to Puno to dialogue with the protesters, insisted in his meeting with community leaders in the town of Juliaca that the project is cancelled—leaving open only the possibility that it will be resumed after consultation with local indigenous inhabitants, as mandated by the international convention ILO-169. “No temporary or definitive concession will be given while there has not been prior consultation in accord with Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization. No concession will be approved except with the guarantee offered by Convention 169 that the prior consultation has been accepted by the population.” (Andina, June 13)

The text of Ministerial Resolution 265-2011-MEM reads that the “Inambari Central Hydro-electric Project will have to realize prior consultation mandated by Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization and by the application of the Right of Consultation with Indigenous Peoples for Mining and Energy activities, approved by Supreme Decree No. 023-2010-2011.” (CNR, June 16)

Meanwhile, international environmentalists hailed the Peruvian government’s announcement. Monti Aguirre, Latin America Program coordinator for the California-based International Rivers, said, “This is a great day for the Peruvian Amazon and the communities who have fought for so long to protect their rights and their environment.” The Inambari dam was expected to produce 2,000 megawatts, equal to about a quarter of Peru’s current installed capacity. A second proposed project under the Brazil-Peru agreement the launched the project, the Pakitzapango Dam, was stopped in 2010 by an administrative legal action by the Central Ashaninka del Rio Ene, an indigenous organization.

Earlier this month, Peruvian NGOs demanded a public debate to review the Peru-Brazil Energy Agreement when the new congress meets in July. In their statement, the NGOs said, “With the Agreement, we would be choosing to give away our energy to external markets at the expense of serious environmental and social impacts for the country. The approval of the agreement adversely compromises any serious effort to planning for long-term sustainable development of the country.”

“Both Brazil and Peru are rich in alternative energy sources,” added Aguirre. “If Brazil invested in energy efficiency, it could avoid the need for any dams to be built in the Amazon Basin and save billions of dollars in the process. The Amazon is simply too precious a resource to squander.” (ENS, June 16)

See our last posts on Peruvian Amazonia and regional struggles for control of water.

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