Appasac withdraws from the enviromental association.

April 22nd, 2010

Further developments have complicated the situation regarding our local agro-environmental group, APAASAC. Last week representatives of ADATA visited just after a meeting with EISA (Electron Investment SA), a company building one of the hydro-electric projects in the province.

Representatives from EISA, whose project is called the Pando-Monte-Lirio, were there to talk about the donations they are considering for projects in Santa Clara. These projects, proposed by the community, are submitted in writing and then reviewed by the company. Many local communities are participating.

The largest among those submitted in Santa Clara include a sum for replacing the water pipes. The regional government paid for a portion of the project, now completed, and this donation would finish the job. There is also a request for money to buy prizes for a raffle to support the newly reconstituted health committee, and a request to purchase some trash cans for locations where people congregate, two bus stops, a small shopping area and the central park. They also talked about the training programs they will be offering in self-esteem and various health topics, including sexuality. These donations are not a requirement of their contract but it is common for projects such as these to offer them.

Without much doubt the companies figure they will enjoy more support from the community. Especially In a charged environment like this one, they have to be thinking this way.

EISA was there also to talk about reforestation. They are legally required to plant 12 trees for every 1 they remove. Therefore they are looking for sources of trees to reforest the areas they clear to install the 10 foot diameter pipes to channel the river into the turbines. The reforestation is still under study to determine the number of trees and other aspects of the plan, they explained. Our group is interested in the project for the income and to insure the job is done properly.

ADATA representatives arrived just as the other meeting was ending. It was an icy moment – Adata parked their truck so as to prevent the EISA truck from leaving so I feared a confrontation. Adata and EISA had all met weeks before when EISA learned, if had not already, that at least some members of Adata opposed the projects. What I did not know at that point is that Demaris and Jorge were already working on getting written commitments from ADATA members.

After asking Jorge to move the truck, which he did in a tongue in cheek sort of way, EISA departed. Demaris and Jorge came in. They said that they were not opposed to hydroelectric projects but they were opposed to the lack of an environmental impact study of all 12 or so projects on the river and the 90-10 rule which allows the company to take up to 90% of the water. This includes not just the river but the water basin, they explained. What might the impact be on water supplies for the human population, and the fauna and flora? This is unknown, but in an area highly dependent on agriculture, it is important to find out, they argued.

They then read the letter that all members of ADATA except APPASAC
had already signed.

Lito then said that he for one felt they had to accept the donations that benefited the community. His brother Anel said that they were all opposed to the mining projects, and remained committed to the environment. After all, he noted, they are one of few organic farmers in the area. He explained that they were not negotiating with EISA, just conversing with them, although that made it clear they would consider negotiating with them.

Demaris then read the letter of withdrawal from Adata they had prepared for APPASAC. She explained that they could not appear to be working against the hydroelectric projects and then having a member who is negotiating with them.

Much to my surprise Anel signed right then and there. As far as I knew there had been no meeting with APAASAC members, no vote taken and no notice of the pending event.

It was a sad moment, the consequences not considered with care as far as I can tell, with no moment given to questions of procedure. The moment gave me the feeling that had I done my job, it would have made a difference if not in the outcome, which is their’s to choose, but in the method.

Subsequently I discussed the situation with our sector director and as I thought, we must not participate in anything anyone is doing on any level with the hydro-electric projects now that the situation here is politicized. At our next meeting I will inform APPASAC.

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