The National Council of Private Enterprise Defends Hydroelectric Projects in Panama

The National Council of Private Enterprise Defends Hydroelectric Projects in Panama

Friday, February 17 2012 @ 10:48 AM COT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Views: 78
The decision whether or not to grant concessions to companies to build hydroelectric projects on Ngäbe-Buglé lands or anywhere else in the rest of the country should not be made exclusively by the indigenous Indians or the leadership in the talks, warned the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP). Antonio Fletcher, the President of the CONEP, said it would be unacceptable to prohibit hydroelectric development throughout the national territory. The CONEP called upon the participants to continue with the dialog, but they should not confuse the need to put an end to the conflict with the sacrifice of the future that the country is demanding.
Ivan Barria, of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said although there are other renewable energy alternatives, the most widely tested and experienced is hydropower. “Hydroelectric power generation is the one with the greater maturity; thermal power generation (burning fuel such as oil or coal) represents leakage through foreign exchange and variable pricing,” he said.

The National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP) Defends Hydroelectric Power Generation in Panama

Stalled dialog – Yesterday was another unproductive day in the National Assembly, with the government and the Indians failing to reach an agreement on the two proposals, one presented by each side. The first proposal was presented by the Coordinator, who stated their position of not accepting the idea that the future of the hydroelectric projects should remain in the hands of regional conferences, or that the issue should be decided through a national referendum. The Government had proposed that hydroelectric projects could be approved or authorized through a vote by the citizens in the region.

Meanwhile, the Government made its counter-proposal, saying they would cancel all of the concessions granted to individuals or corporations, foreign or domestic, for the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources, and the development of hydroelectric projects in the Ngäbe-Bugle region and adjoining areas. The authorities insist that the Barro Blanco project, which the Indians are demanding to be cancelled, is outside of the Ngäbe-Bugle region and nearby areas.

The government also proposed that the Ngäbe-Bugle people should participate in conjunction with the competent authorities in the development of management plans for the watersheds located within the Ngäbe-Bugle district and adjoining areas, and the approval of future hydroelectric projects.

Subsequently, a subcommittee was formed consisting of three members from each of the parties involved to try to unify the proposals and submit an article of agreement. However, by 8:00 pm the negotiations were unsuccessful, so a recess was declared until today at 10:00 am, when the dialog was resumed. (Panama America)

Editor’s Comment: The rapid growth and expansion of the Panamanian economy in the past seven years have placed ever increasing demands on the nation’s ability to generate electrical power. If you will remember during the Torrijos administration there was one year of much lower than normal rainfalls caused by El Niño ENSO conditions in the equatorial Pacific ocean. As a result water levels behind the existing dams dropped down to a point where they were forced to halt the generation of electrical power. The government had to implement rolling blackouts and other methods to reduce power consumption for a few months. Eventually the rainy season returned (much later than normal), the reservoirs filled back up, the power came back on, and everyone forgot about it. However the episode served as a “wake up call” for the government and as a result there was a massive spurt of new concessions granted to build new hydro electric projects all over the country. Right now, today, the new projects coming on line are just barely keeping pace with the growing demand and rapidly expanding economy in Panama. This country is blessed with massive amounts of rainfall every year (normally). Hydroelectric projects are the cleanest, cheapest, and most efficient way to generate electrical power. The cost is less than half of what it costs to generate power by burning fossil fuels such as oil or coal. So yeah, there’s no doubt about it. Panama needs hydroelectric power, and the government can’t afford to allow a relatively small minority of the indigenous Ngäbe-Bugle Indians dictate national policy on this issue. Obviously…

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6 Responses to “The National Council of Private Enterprise Defends Hydroelectric Projects in Panama”

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