Mega-dam in Peruvian Amazon Cancelled
The Peruvian government announced that the massive Inambari Dam, planned on a major Amazonian tributary, has been canceled after years of strong community opposition. For the past 36 days, close to 2,000 people in the Puno area had been on strike in an effort to convince the government to cancel mining concessions and the dam project. They blocked access roads to the region and held mass protests.
To appease the strikers, the government established a high-level commission to review the Inambari Dam. After a tense meeting with local communities on June 13, Commission Chair and Vice-Minister of Energy Luis Gonzales Talledo definitively canceled the project, stating that the Brazilian EGASUR consortium’s rights to develop the project had been revoked.
"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 according to ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which is an important precedent," said Aldo Santos, from local NGO SER (Rural Educational Services).
For more than three years, affected communities have opposed the Inambari Dam, which would flood 410 square kilometers of forest, including part of the Bahujan Sonene National Park buffer zone. The project would leave more than 15,000 people without agricultural lands and thus their main source of livelihoods. Flooding of 120km of the recently built Inter-Oceanic Highway would sever access to markets and affect the economic development of the district of San Gaban and the province of Carabaya in Puno State.
"This is a great triumph for the communities and the Peasant Patrols (rondas campesinas), and we will continue to defend our lands and our culture. Even though the project is canceled, 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.
The cancellation of the project is a blow to the Brazilian government, which signed an energy agreement with Peru last year committing to purchase electricity from six dams in the Peruvian Amazon. The $4.9 billion Inambari Dam was expected to be financed by the Brazilian National Development Bank and to be built by Brazilian construction companies. The recently-released Brazil Energy Expansion Plan for 2011-2020 includes a total of 7,000 MW of imported hydropower from the Peruvian Amazon. The Inambari Dam, which until now was at the most advanced stage of planning, was expected to produce 2,000 megawatts, equal to about a quarter of the country’s current installed capacity. The second proposed dam under the Brazil-Peru Agreement, 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 a communiqué, NGOs stated that "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."
Monti Aguirre, Latin America Program Coordinator for 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. Both Brazil and Peru are rich in alternative energy sources. 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.”
Although it has become clear that EGASUR will not build Inambari, Puno's population is still protesting the issuance of mining and oil concessions in the province.