With encroachment from settlers and speculators, and after a devastating war against Shining Pathrebels a decade ago, the indigenous Ashaninkas’ hold is precarious. And they are now facing anew peril, the proposed 2,200-megawatt Pakitzapango hydroelectric dam, which would flood muchof the Ene River valley.
The project is part of a proposal for as many as five dams that under a 2010 energy agreementwould generate more than 6,500 megawatts, primarily for export to neighboring Brazil. The damswould displace thousands of people in the process.
Antonio Metzoquiari, 59, considered the implications for his community. “This is a grave matter,”he said. “It’s a return to violence, another war. I don’t know where or how, but we would have to finda new place to live.”
Hydroelectric dams have fallen out of favor in some parts of the world, but they remain attractive inmuch of Latin America, where a number of nations have plenty of water but lack other energysources.
For now, the project is stalled in the Peruvian Congress. President Ollanta Humala has not stakedout a clear position on the proposed dams, though that is likely to change when President DilmaRousseff of Brazil visits Peru, a visit expected soon.
Despite claims that the welfare of affected communities is a top priority, several of the projectspassed feasibility studies before local residents were even informed that the government hadawarded concessions on the land. In response, the Central Ashaninka del Rio Ene, whichrepresents Ashaninka populations, went to court to compel the Energy and Mining Ministry todisclose all feasibility studies.
After the project was announced, the organization brought together 17 Ashaninka communities toexplain that a dam would inundate some communities and dry out others. Many people would beforced from their homes, critics argue, evoking memories of Peru’s war against the Maoist-inspiredShining Path rebels, which officially ended in 2000 but scarred the Ashaninka.
Of the 70,000 people who were killed over two decades, 6,000 were Ashaninka, experts said.Thousands more were displaced.
The final speaker at the meeting, Dimer Dominguito, 25, who was accompanied by his wife andfive children, captured the Ashaninka’s outrage.
“In the city they make money and buy whatever they need, but here we live by our customs, ourmarket, eating what we plant and we are happy,” he said. “We want to defend our right to what isnatural, to defend our market, and we support the government, but who supports us?”
The New York Times
- Dam project latest threat to Peruvian tribe (smh.com.au)
- Boca Sanibeni Journal: Dam Project Would Displace Villages in Jungle Valley of Peru (nytimes.com)
- Latin America Hydroelectric Projects Opposed – The Threat of “Green” Energy (climate-connections.org)
- A Dam Clouds The Future of Peru’s Indigenous People (nytimes.com)