Brazilian Construction Company Cancels Plans for Mega-Dam in Peru

Monti Aguirre
Ashaninka Baby
Ashaninka Baby

Odebrecht is withdrawing from a commitment to develop the Tambo-40 Dam on the Tambo River in the Peruvian Amazon. It is a good day for Ashaninka communities in the Amazon.

In an official letter to the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines, Odebrecht stated that after completing preliminary studies and learning of the strong opposition by indigenous communities, the company decided to “respect the opinion of local populations” and withdrew from the project.

This is a great achievement for the Ashaninka communities, who for years have fought against dams on the Ene and Tambo Rivers. It also calls into question the Peruvian government’s plans for building a series of dams on the Ene-Tambo River, where indigenous communities are vehemently opposed to dam construction.

The Tambo-40 project would affect more than 14,000 indigenous peoples of the Tambo and Ene River. To convince Odebrecht, the Ashaninka of the Tambo River invited company officials to meet with community members in traditional assemblies to listen to the concerns of the indigenous peoples. The withdrawal of Odebrecht leaves the project without a developer.

The project came dangerously close to submerging 22,000 hectares of forest, and communities fear that the network of roads for building the dam and power lines would open up the area for illegal activities and colonization of the protected Otishi National Park and Ashaninka Communal Reserve. The Ashaninka will now turn their attention to convincing Brazilian company Electrobrás, interested in building another dam on the Tambo River – the Tambo-60 – to withdraw.

Ashaninka Women
Ashaninka Women

Tambo-40 would have been for export of hydroelectric power to Brazil and was one of the projects contemplated under the energy agreement signed between Peru and Brazil in June 2010. Odebrecht’s decision comes as a blow to President Ollanta Humala, who has recommitted his government to the agreement signed by his predecessor, President Alan García.

The agreement commits Peru to supplying more than 6000 MW of power to Brazil, most of which is expected to come from hydropower in the Peruvian Amazon, which is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Many of the projects contemplated by the agreement were designed by the Brazilian electric utility Eletrobrás in conjunction with Brazilian multinational construction giants Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez, all of which would be directly involved in dam construction with funding from the Brazilian national development bank, BNDES.