Indigenous Community Rises Up Against Proposed Dam

Indigenous groups living near the proposed site of a planned close to US$2 billion-hydroelectric project that would supply 1 million Costa Ricans with power are seeking legal action against the project.

The Diquís project would displace1,100 people, many of them indigenous in southern Costa Rica, and flood 6,000 hectares, 800 of which are part of the ancestral lands of the Térraba community.

The Association for Popular Initiatives Ditsö (“seed” in the Bri-Bri language), a non-governmental organization working with indigenous groups, has said it is preparing injunction requests against the project, arguing that the Costa Rica Electricity Institute, or ICE, the state-run electricity and telecommunications monopoly, has already stripped part of the area of vegetation and protection from erosion.

“All of these issues happened without having the given permits, without the consultation and knowledge of the Térraba community, disrespecting national and international norms that require that these communities are consulted about any initiative or project that affects them,” said the organization, referring to the International Labor Organization´s Convention 169 on indigenous peoples, of which Costa Rica is a signatory.

Some local community members are not against the project, but want to know what ICE is going to do about the environmental impact, while others say that their land, rivers and lakes are sacred and should not be touched at all.

“We indigenous people see the earth as our mother, who gives us food, clothing, everything a human being needs,” Elides Rivera, a local resident and member of the Terraba community, told Teletica TV channel earlier this year. “We know that the non-indigenous people don´t see it that way but we do.”

ICE has one year before it presents the government with an environmental impact study on the project, along with the measures it plans to take, such as reforestation, to alleviate the environmental effects. Some of the land where the project is proposed is primary and secondary forest.

In early July, representatives of the Bri-Bri, Cabecar, Keköldí, and Ngobe-buglé indigenous communities had complained that 16 smaller hydroelectric dams in their areas were degrading their local rivers in eastern Costa Rica.

 

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