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The El Diquís Hydroelectric Project is an ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad or Costa Rican Electricity Institute) hydroelectric dam project, currently in the planning stages, to be located between Buenos Aires, Osa, and Pérez Zeledón in Costa Rica. Planned as the largest hydroelectric dam in Central America, the El Diquís (Boruca/Veraguas) Hydroelectric Project will generate electricity for more than one million consumers (producing 631 MW), dwarfing the Pirrís hydroelectric plant which completed construction in January, 2011 and is set to begin producing electricity in September 2011. The project will require 7363.506 hectares of land, 915.59 hectares of which are indigenous territories, and displace 1547 people. It would also employ in the region of 3,500 people and the electricity produced has to potential to be exported to neighbouring countries.
This $2 billion (US) project is now named the PH Diquis Project by ICE. In October 2011, The Constitutional Chamber (Sala IV) of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica gave ICE a six-month deadline to make peace with indigenous residents in the Terraba area. Under international treaty signed by Costa Rica ICE must respect Terraba indigenous lands.
It is part of the PPP - Plan Puebla Panama - via SIEPAC. Oddly, SIEPAC Section 17, still unbuilt yet would serve as the transmission line, is part of what is the MesoAmerican Biological Corridor, The Path of The Tapir. The entire corridor was formerly in the scope of the PPP.
The dam's electrical operating plant is proposed at Palmar Norte some distance from the dam itself. The project includes two tunnels one gravity fed and the other electrically waters to be pumped back behind the dam. Palmar Norte is a small village located in the Diquis Valley within a RAMSAR designated watershed/mangrove region - the Humedal Nacional Terraba-Sierpe covering 32,235 Hectares, where billions of marine lifeforms are born. It is the largest wild mangrove region in Central America established as a forest park in 1977 and receiving RAMSAR status in 1995. Located nearshore to this intricate watershed is the only marine site on Earth where both subspecies of Humpback Whales congregate. National Geographic states one of five last wild places is adjacent to this region, The Osa Peninsula. Nearshore is the protected island of Canos. Strong opposition to the project from Women of the Osa, Nature Conservancy, ASANA, eco-lodges serving the upscale tourism, international travelers who have settled in the area, and nearby communities are against the dam. It is estimated over 200 sacred Indigenous sites would be destroyed by the project.
The current status of this project is also unclear since Section 17 of SIEPAC (transmission line) is unbuilt because of several lawsuits pending in Costa Rica brought by rainforest-based communities in the rural Southern Zone of Costa Rica opposed to the transmission line. The small sustainable rural communities contend the transmission line destroys primal forest, significant watersheds and puts at-risk species at further risk while destroying habitats, peace and hopes of these communities creating eco-tourism and cultural tourism.
The mega-dam is under development for over 30 years first called the Boruca Dam. The Boruca Dam included an Aluminum smelting operation. The Boruca peoples fought and won a decision against the dam and the industry. Then ICE moved the project one Indigenous peoples lands west to the Terraba using the General River rather than the Terraba River to flood the Valle de General. The Terraba River under the current project is where the warm waters from the electrical plant at Palmar Norte are to be released. The Terraba feeds the Humedal Nacional Terraba-Sierpe.
The remote Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica is dependent on eco-tourism bringing improved living to locals and Indigenous peoples. To say this energy is to be used for these communities is not correct. The population across the entire region is very sparse. There is also no industry in the region except farms for coffee and pineapples.Indigenous Protest
Representatives of indigenous organizations have pressed for the ICE to halt construction plans for the El Diquís Hydroelectric Project, stating that their rights have been disregarded. Damming the river basin will flood approximately 685 hectares of protected land, which will force members of the neighbouring Terraba community out of their homes permanently. A study by the University of Texas School of Law's Human Rights Clinic released in July 2010 concluded that the Costa Rican government has violated the rights of the indigenous people by failing to consult with them and keep them informed of project activities, in spite of international laws requiring them to do so. The report reads: “Costa Rica has failed to respect and protect the human rights of its indigenous peoples in the areas of information, property, representation and effective participation in decisions surrounding the [hydroelectric project]... Its national electricity authority, ICE, has not obtained the effective participation of the Teribe peoples as required under international law.”
In March 2011, the Teribe indigenous community filed a lawsuit against ICE, and in April 2011 the United Nations Organization also sent a letter to the Costa Rican government echoing the concerns of the Indigenous community.References