Carbon Market Watch

For fair and effective climate protection.

Barro Blanco – Large hydro project, Panama

Project Title: Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Power Plant Project
Status: Registered
Ref #: 3237
Consolidated methodology for grid-connected electricity generation from renewable sources – ACM0002 ver. 10

Barro Blanco is the latest dam envisaged for the historic Tabasara River in the Chiriqui Province of Panama. Originally the Ngäbe indigenous people surrounding the river had formed a movement against the dam and demanded protection of their rights to the resources that the river provides. Since then concessions have been granted by local communities which has enabled the construction of the dam to begin without their approval.


Sustainable Development
Hydro Power
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The Ngäbe Bugle, the largest indigenous peoples group of Panama, took to the streets earlier this year to demand that all concessions granted without their approval be cancelled, including those for the controversial Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Power Plant Project. These protests, which blocked the Pan-American Highway for over a week, stemmed from the refusal of legislators to include article 5 of the proposed law 415 – as previously agreed upon – to prohibit all mining and hydroelectric concessions within the region of the Ngäbe Bugle.

Violent repression by President Martinelli against the peaceful Ngäbe protests left three of them dead and more than a hundred wounded. Communications were cut and human rights were severely violated. Minors were beaten and pepper-sprayed while handcuffed. Police raided hospitals to abduct the wounded. There were even reports of detained Ngäbe women raped by police agents, including a 13 year old minor. See: Final Report of Human Rights Fact Finding Mission.

Peace negotiations between the government and the Ngäbe Bugle have since occurred. A compromise agreement between the two parties has resulted in the passing of Special Law 11, in force since April 2012. This new law cancels mining concessions and prohibits future mining. It also states that any future hydroelectric projects the government plans in the territory must be subject to approval by indigenous authorities and a referendum of the area’s residents. The Ngäbe Bugle people are to receive 5% of the projects annual billing as well. However, the contentious Barro Blanco dam will go ahead.

According to the  PDD:

The purpose of this project is to build a Hydroelectric Power Plant, with a total installed capacity of 28.84MW and a mean annual generation of 124.83 GWh, with the aim of making use of the capacity of the Tabasara River. Initially the project involved the construction of a 19.99 MW hydroelectric power plant, but after a study of alternatives for different powers installed, the feasibility of increasing the installed capacity based on a better use of available flow in the reservoir was established, and 28.84 MW was set as project power.

Identified shortcomings

• Permission was given for project activity to go ahead without the consent of local stakeholders.
• Local protests to the project have led to the killing of 3 people, physical and sexual abuse on protesters in custody and hospital abductions.
• Project causes significant negative social and environmental impacts. Read more
• Continued repression by agents of the nation police force reportedly aims to disrupt local indigenous protesters ability to assemble.
• Following a protest rally in late March Onesimo Rodriguez was killed in Las Nubes, Cerro Punta.
• Lack of adequate public consultation and human rights abuses. Read more

What we are calling for:

• Credits from CDM Activities resulting in Human right infringement should be withdrawn or cancelled if already issued.
• Removal of host country approval due to the negative effects on local livelihoods and ecosystems and therefore does not contribute to sustainable development.
• Executive Board authority to remove registration status and credit allocation for CDM activity, if human right abuses are identified.

To read more about this project:

View our press releases:

View our letters submitted to various stakeholders:

View these articles in our various Newsletters

Other related documents: