Work on 29-MW Barro Blanco hydro in Panama to proceed with new operator

Barro Blanco in Panama

An agreement signed by the government of Panama and the Ngabe-Bugle indigenous reserve replaced Generatora del Istmo S.A. (Genisa), developer of the 29-MW Barro Blanco hydro project, with an unnamed independent third party.

Barro Blanco, on the Tabasara River in Chiriqui province, is expected to cost US$86 million to develop.

According to BNAmericas, Panama President Juan Carlos Varela said the accord lays the groundwork for a new way of resolving conflict. The dialogue process began in February 2015 and included more than 19 work groups and meetings.

Other components of the agreement include:

  • At least half of personnel at the project must be from the reserve
  • A trust will be created for social development activity in the area
  • Concessions for hydroelectric projects that use water from the Tabasara River will be cancelled
  • Future concessions in the reserve must have approval from the population via a referendum and then be approved by the local, regional and general congress

Conflict exists over this agreement, particularly the fact that Genisa said it had never been part of the conflict resolution process and was informed of the agreement after the fact. Genisa received the concession to build the project in 2007 following an international tender. In addition, Genisa says it owns the project land, which is outside the indigenous reserve.

In addition, there is concern that the agreement was reached without following legal administrative guidelines.

Development of the project is nearly complete but has been delayed by court actions.

The text of the agreement (in Spanish) is available here.

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