The indigenous communities of Rio Blanco, Honduras blocked the main access road leading to the proposed Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on April 1 to stop construc-tion of the dam. On the 2nd of April, they issued an ultimatum to the company, demand-ing the immediate removal of construction equipment & permanent removal of the project.
The communities of Rio Blanco, whom hold a community title to the territory, were not adequately consulted nor allowed to participate in the process leading to this project. Only the mayor of the municipality, and a few well compensated individuals, ratified the project. The right of indigenous peoples to determine their own process of development is guarantied by UN convention 169. The construction and completion of this dam will cause widespread environmental destruction, flooding inhabited and utilized areas, restricting the access of water to many thousands of people in Rio Blanco and down stream, cause the degradation of pristine natural areas, produce huge quantities of greenhouse gasses through the decomposition of submerged biomass, in addition to water and land contamination caused by the construction. Simply put, this dam is a death sentence to the indigenous communities that have lived here for generations.
This type of so-called “green development” has been greatly accelerated after the 2009 coup which has since opened the flood gates to transnational and neo-liberal exploitation of natural resources. Since 2009, there have been around 360 newly accepted development concessions in Honduras, 30% of which are on indigenous lands. Within this neo-liberal framework, dam projects serve a dual purpose. SIEPAC (Central American Electrical Interconnection System) part of the Mesoamerica Project (previously called Plan Pueblo-Panama) will connect the electrical grids of all Mesoamerica allowing cheap energy to be transported to the energy hungry USA. In addition, dams are necessary to redirect the enormous quantity of water needed for mining operations. For these reasons, resistance to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam and dam projects in general is extremely important because the dam will open the door to exponentially worse environmental degradation and destruction of indigenous cultures.
The danger to the communities of Rio Blanco for participating in this action cannot be understated. For example, the land reclamation action 3 years ago in Bajo Aguan has seen the murder of over 100 participants and counting. There has been an influx of heavily armed men in the area, and violent threats against participants have been consistent.
On April 12, 40 heavily armed National Police evicted the blockade but it was reestablished the next day. On April 19, 50 community members hiked to the construction site and peacefully forced workers and equipment to leave. Earth-movers had already caused heart breaking devastation to the river valley. The blockade and protests are on-going as Slingshot goes to press.
International solidarity plays an extremely important role in defending the human rights of those in defense of mother earth and indigenous culture. In addition to any form of solidarity action imaginable, the communities of Rio Blanco are asking for people to contact Honduran and corporate officials who are building and financing the dam. For more info contact www.copinh.org.