Peru: victory in struggle against Inambari hydro-dam —for now

Following the issuance of Ministerial Resolution 264 by Peru’s Ministy of Energy and Mines (MINEM) on June 14, suspending construction of the Inambari hydro-electric dam in the rainforest region of Madre de Dios, protesters called off their paro, or civil strike, in Macusani, capital of Carabaya province in the neighboring region of Puno. Macusani had been paralyzed since June 8 by protests demanding cancellation of the project, with traffic blocked on the newly paved Interoceanic Highway connecting the region to Brazil.

However, protesters in Juliaca, capital of San Roman province to the south (see map) vowed to maintain their paro. Hernán Vilca Soncco, leader of the Committee of Struggle in Juliaca, pointed out that Resolution 264 has still not been published in the official newspaper El Peruano. He also stated that other outstanding issues behind the protest campaign haven’t been addressed. “They haven’t attended to all our demands, such as the decontamination of the Río Ramis and the prohibition of mineral exploitation concessions by transnational companies,” he said. He pledged he would meet with protest leaders in Carabaya to try to talk them into continuing the paro.

The affected provinces of Carabaya, Azángaro and San Roman straddle the divide between the Lake Titicaca watershed and the Amazon basin, and protesters say development projects threaten both of the rivers that drain the provinces in either direction. The dam on the Río Inambari, which flows north into the Río Madre de Dios and the Amazon basin, was to flood some 20 villages, large areas of farmland, and untouched parts of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. The Río Ramis, which flows south to Lake Titicaca, has been contaminated by mining operations in the area. (RPP, June 15; RPP, June 14; Generacion, June 12; El Comercio, June 11; Generacion, June 10)

MINEM vice-minster Luis Gonzáles Talledo said the ministry’s contract to build the Inambari complex with the Brazil-based Southern Amazon Electric Generating Company (EGASUR) has been cancelled, citing the project’s failure to comply with ILO-169, the international convention mandating that indigenous peoples be consulted on development plans affecting their territory. “There is nothing pending with the Inambari project evaluation so there should be no reason for the residents of the Carabaya area to worry regarding the possible construction of the hydroelectric plant, ” Gonzáles assured in a meeting with community leaders in Juliaca. (Peru21, June 13)

However, two months ago, EGASUR itself had asked Peru’s government to delay the project, noting the threat of unrest in the affected areas, where some 3,200 people were to be relocated by the mega-scheme. Citing “the social and economic reality in the Andean and Amazonian south,” EGASUR president Evandro Miguel said he was seeking an “extension” from Lima to “adapt the project to the rhythm of the local social processes.” (Peruvian Times, April 9)

See our last posts on Peru and the struggle for the Amazon.

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