Hasta la Victoria: La Parota Dam Cancelled

By: 
Berklee Lowrey-Evans
Families gathered by the Río Papagayo in solidarity against the construction of La Parota Dam for the March 14, 2011 International Day of Action for Rivers.
Families gathered by the Río Papagayo in solidarity against the construction of La Parota Dam for the March 14, 2011 International Day of Action for Rivers.
Photo courtesy of CECOP

On August 16, 2012, after nearly 10 years of campaigning, La Parota Dam was officially cancelled. This is an amazing victory for the communities in Mexico – especially the Council of Communal Land Owners and Communities Against Construction of La Parota Dam (CECOP) – who have been fighting the project from the beginning, and the larger movement in Latin America fighting to protect their rivers and human rights.

La Parota would have consisted of a 900 MW dam on the Papagayo River 28 km from the city of Acapulco in the state of Guerrero. It would have flooded close to 17,000 hectares of land, displaced more than 25,000 people, and affected another 75,000 people downstream of the dam.

Rodolfo (far left) speaking with activists from Mexico, Uganda, Colombia and the Philippines during Rivers for Life 3.
Rodolfo (far left) speaking with activists from Mexico, Uganda, Colombia and the Philippines during Rivers for Life 3.
Photo by International Rivers

Read a great interview from our June 2009 World Rivers Review with Rodolfo Chavez Galindo, one of the leaders of the movement to stop La Parota Dam. Rodolfo attended Rivers for Life 3 in Temaca, Mexico in October of 2010, where he had the opportunity to share his experiences on our of our panels.

The dam faced major delays and challenges from the start:

  • On July 28, 2003, peasants from three villages blocked engineers with the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) from entering community lands after they had illegally entered without permission. Niether the land compensation process nor the environmental licensing process had started, but thousands of trees had been cut - a federal crime - roads opened, and heavy machinery brought in to begin construction. The CFE removed the machinery from the peasants' lands and was not able to re-enter;
  • In January 2006, a Mexican court declared that some of the consultations held by the CFE were invalid;
  • A temporary injunction was ordered by Mexican federal judge Lidia Larumbe on September 11, 2007 in response to a suit accusing the government and the CFE of illegally granting environmental clearance and a water concession for the dam, along with serious human rights violations, failure to follow Mexican and international environmental law, and a refusal to conduct an open and transparent approval process;
  • On September 13, 2009, La Parota was postponed until 2018 by the Mexican government, ostensibly due to the economic downturn.
"The end point of La Parota Dam: CECOP won, the land is not for sale"
Photo courtesy of lavozdelpueblo-ciin.blogspot.com via Milenio.com

Finally, August 16 saw the definitive end of La Parota Dam. At 3:30pm, State Governor Ángel Aguirre and members of CECOP signed the "Acuerdos de Cacahuatepec" (Cacahuatepec Agreement), which stated that the governor would seek audience with Mexican President Felipe Calderon to explain that he would not approve construction of the dam if it affected the environment, if residents weren't justly compensated, and if affected communities did not approve of the project.

This victory belongs to the dedicated and tireless people who've fought against this dam from the beginning, and to people around the world who keep fighting to stop unjust development projects like La Parota. Victories like these are why we continue to fight – because people still win even in the face of daunting odds. Each victory spurs all of us in this movement to protect rivers and rights around the world to keep working one more day, one more week, one more year. Because things can change, if we work together. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Today we have seen one tiny slice of justice for the Earth's rivers and people everywhere who are not afraid to stand up for their human rights.

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