Xalala Dam

In the remote uplands of Guatemala, thousands of indigenous people are fighting to protect their homes and land from the Xalala Dam, a 180 MW project that would be built on the Chixoy River, downstream from the existing Chixoy Dam. The government wants to build the project to supply electricity to Guatemala and neighboring Mexico, but the communities, many of whom suffered terrible atrocities during the civil war of the 1980s, are strongly resisting.

The Xalala Dam would displace more than 2,000 people and impact the livelihoods of 8,000 Maya-Qechí farmers. Communities in the provinces of Ixcán, Quiche, Uspantán and Alta Verapaz would be affected by the dam.

In 2007, communities organized a referendum in their local area to gauge support for the project. Almost 90% of people in the area said "no" to the dam. Nevertheless, the government has refused to recognize the vote as binding because the project is deemed to be a national priority.

In November 2008, the government offered the project to private investors, but failed to receive a single bid. Investors reportedly shied away due to the community opposition and the global financial crisis. In late 2012 the government announced that it would restart the bidding process for the dam in 2013. 

A report prepared by the Copenhagen Initiative for Central America and Mexico calls on the Guatemalan government to recognize the communities' rights to free, prior and informed consent, and to prepare an environmental impact assessment which includes the environmental, social, economic and cultural impacts of the project.

International Rivers is working with Puentes de Paz to support the affected communities in their campaign, and coordinated a study looking at alternative energy options for Guatemala.