Hydroelectric dams threaten Amazon, indigenous peoples
Peru and Brazil signed a pact last month to build six hydroelectric dams in the Peruvian Amazon — and the indigenous peoples in Peru as well as the environment will have to suffer the calamitous consequences.
Populations will be displaced and ecosystems disrupted if these projects are realized, environmentalists say.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Peruvian President Alan García signed the pact in question.
Peru has thus committed to deliver a permanent percentage of electricity to Brazil for 30 years. Also, if anyone wants to back down, this will only be possible 15 years into the agreement, according to Peruvian Energy Vice Minister Daniel Cámac. The idea is that Peru will get all the electricity it needs out of the deal, although it hasn’t yet decided how much it will require.
But not everyone thinks this makes sense.
“What is the point of signing a pact without having determined if this is what we need as a country?” asked lawyer César Gamboa, director of the NGO Law, Environment and Natural Resources (DAR). “Why don’t we conduct the studies before we make commitments we can’t back out of?”
The idea of the pact, born in 2006, is to generate 6,000 megavolts (mv) (note: 1 mv = 1 million volts) through the construction of generators in Peruvian turf that will prioritize internal supply and allow for the sale of surplus energy to Brazil, the official version goes.
On the other hand, engineer Alfredo Novoa says this is BS. The director of the NGO ProNaturaleza said,
“Peru doesn’t need energy projects in the Amazon to cover its demand. There is a 22,000 mv potential in the Andes and thousands more along the coast. Why more?”
Professor of the Institute of Electrical Engineering and Energy at the University of Saão Paulo Célio Bermann said the plants won’t meet Peru’s energy needs. Further, the agreement will irrevocably harm the Peruvian Amazon’s ecosystems.
“Yet the energy that will be produced will serve the interest of international and Brazilian mining, and metallurgy companies that are ever-expanding in the Amazon. The power will not go to meet the needs of everyday Peruvians or Brazilians,” he stated.
Moreover, it is still unclear where these generators will be built – it may happen in the Andes instead of the Amazon, Cámac told.
Mariano Castro, former executive secretary of the Peruvian National Environment Council and lawyer with the Peruvian Society of Environmental Rights (SPDA), said the dams will not ensure clean and renewable energy for Peru.
“On the contrary, it will impose a series of negative environmental and social impacts such as displacement of indigenous people and deforestation in at least five departments of Peru, putting at grave risk the future of the Peruvian Amazon,” Castro said.
One of the controversial projects is to take place in the Inambari River, located in the Amazonian limits of the Cusco, Madre de Dios and Puno regions in the southeastern part of Peru. This would be the largest hydroelectric plant in the country and the fifth-largest in Latin America.
The other is the Paquitzapango Project in the Ene River in Junín, home of the indigenous asháninka population.
Three other projects exist in the pact. The building of all five entails an investment of between USD 13.5 million and USD 16.5 million.
A more important cost will be that paid by the indigenous peoples. More than 4,000 inhabitants of the Inambari region and up to 10,000 in Paquitzapango would be displaced. To make matters worse, the unfortunate asháninka of Paquitzapango were already displaced during the internal Peruvian armed conflict of 1980-2000.
Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise by 5.9% as a result of the project.