FUNDICCEP Comments to AENOR Regarding the Pedregalito Hydroelectric Project (Panama)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Position to sustain our opposition to the granting of Certificates of Emission Reduction (CERs), to the hydroelectric company Hydro Pedregalito (Panama Power Holdings) on the Chico "Piedra" River in the province of Chiriqui, district of Boqueron in the Republic of Panama

View of machinery Piedra River from the Interamerican Highway
View of machinery Piedra River from the Interamerican Highway
Foundation for Comprehensive Community Development and Conservation of Ecosystems of Panama (FUNDICCEP)

Environmental impacts

  • The project does not take into account a study of the basin that would have allowed the National Environmental Authority to recognize among other things a real inventory of species  and their interdependence or the identification of threatened species and their breeding behavior, or the interaction of the different species to ensure the survival of the region's biodiversity.
  • The project ignores the natural behavior of the species in the river, such as "diadromous" species that require contact with saline water at some point in their life cycle to ensure their existence, and that must go upstream and downstream for survival.
  • The project grants an irresponsible percentage (10%) of water as the sole volume that should be allowed to guarantee the existence of life in the river.
  • The project segments the river, and the repeated segmentation by others planned both upstream and downstream would cause the physical death of the river and much of its natural life by not allowing the passage and exchange of fish species and others that live there.
  • The river will suffer a gradual death as result of the lack of water on the now dry river bed, where both banks of the river have no natural infiltration from the surface of the river bed to the ground water, where natural species and the very soil microbiology from which everything originates will be seriously affected.
  • Salinization of the soil all around the river bed will occur where the water cannot run, which will impact natural habitats on the margins and in lower parts of the soil.
  • Water quality will decline due to the effects of flooding, tubing, and turbination turbulence that will occur before being placed on the river many kilometers below.
  • Methane will form in the flooded area due to the accumulation of organic material dragged upstream, and methane gases will be emitted into the atmosphere.

Social impacts

  • The physical presence of communities near the area of project operation makes them vulnerable to flooding and to the collapse of infrastructure downstream.
  • Community access to areas of the river that were once used by residents for activities such as fishing, entertainment and recreation would be limited.
  • Access to water in places where only 10% remains is inadequate, especially in the summer months where the demand for water for all uses increases and the resource itself decreases.
  • The decrease of water in the lower layers of soil will reduce aquifers from which many families provide themselves with water for their activities, especially in the summer months.
  • Water quality decreases once it leaves the generation proccess.

Economic impacts

  • By decreasing the presence of water needed for different uses, their properties lose value.
  • By living near areas with an increased risk of flooding, property houses, and belongings will be in constant peril.
  • Limiting activities such as fishing, either due to the dissapearance of fish species or to the control of access to the river margins will lead to negative economic consequence.
  • Not having the usual water flow that was used in activities as agriculture, cattle raising, and others means that their properties have lost their greatest asset.
  • The properties bordering the river, mostly downstream, will see an increase in their risk of being flooded.
  • The cumulative effects of this infrastructure will increase the risks and incalculable costs for state investment involved in the construction of road infrastructure, the Inter-American highway, bridges, and the Chiriqui Bocas oil pipeline.

Civil defense impacts

  • The basin of the Chico River is considered among the fastest and most dangerous in the world. Intervention in the margins of this river from the lower basin has increased the risk of flooding exponentially with terrible consequences to the communities living at these water levels in the middle and lower basins.
  • Areas such as Borinquito, La Victoria, Pedregalito, and the Tejar of Alanje, among others, are communities that will see an increase in flood risks with fatal consequences.

Angel Aguirre Sanchez, President,

Jorge Orlando Pitty, Secretary,

David Samudio Núñez, Treasurer,