Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The opposition to dams on El Salvador's rivers

There is organized opposition to the construction of hydroelectric dams on the rivers of El Salvador. In January, the government suspended any project work for the proposed El Cimarron dam on the Lempa River. From the group International Rivers:

The act of coming together to strategize about protecting their communities against the ravages of big dams has finally paid off for some communities. The Salvadorian government announced in January that it was scrapping the proposed El Cimarron Dam. The dam, which would have blocked the Lempa River, would have displaced nearly 35,000 people from their homes and farms.

In his announcement that the dam was shelved, President Mauricio Funes said it would not be built in its current design because of the environmental and social problems it would cause. El Cimarron dam would have been the sixth largest hydroelectric dam in El Salvador. The project, which does not have a feasibility study yet, included a river diversion and an 8km tunnel. It has been in the planning stages for 12 years, and its costs have tripled in that time. Although South Korea sent a delegation to El Salvador last year demonstrating interest in financing, the deal never closed.
Although the El Cimarron dam has been shelved, president Funes continues to express his support for the development of the El Chaparral dam north of San Miguel and expansion of the 5th of November dam. Funes believes these hydroelectric projects are important to address an electrical power deficit facing the country in the near future.

There is an organized opposition to such projects in El Salvador. A blog with news from this movement is located at http://elsalvadorantirepresas.blogspot.com/. The International Day for the Fight Against Dams is March 14.

Like the gold mining debate, the debate over construction of dams on El Salvador's rivers pits environmental costs and disruption of local communities against promises of economic development and jobs for a country which needs both.

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