Written by Jonathan Gonzalez Quiel, translated from Spanish
At the beginning of November we received the hurricane warning for the entire area, but in the particular case of Panama, the government did not worry because the hurricane would enter through Nicaragua heading to Honduras and then to the Caribbean. It was expected that 195 millimeters of rain would come between November 1st and November 4th; causing an increase in the flow of rivers.
In the Chiriquí region alone, there are 38 hydroelectric plants within the Chiriquí Viejo River basin. Of these, there are 8 hydroelectric plants on the main system, and all of them opened their floodgates on November 4 causing downstream communities to be flooded in record time.
(Please consider donating to the relief efforts through the GoFundMe profile set up here.)
The same happened in the other basins, and other communities were affected. With this extreme event, a large part of the national territory was affected by landslides and/or flooding. In the Highlands, a total of 17 people died and we still have 24 missing. No deaths were reported due to flooding, but material losses are considerable.
At a general level, communities and public opinion blame the hydroelectric plants for the downstream floods and others want to demand that the government be held responsible for the neglect for not taking extreme environmental events seriously and for not being rigorous with these private companies of energy generation.
Similar situations are reported in Honduras and Guatemala with hydroelectric plants that opened their floodgates to save civil works where they put thousands of inhabitants downstream at risk.
Currently throughout Central America, the inability to manage risk in the face of natural disasters and the level of complicity with these hydro-energy investments that are a death trap have been exposed.
Below are some videos that illustrate what we are currently debating (Spanish only).
Please consider donating to the relief efforts through the GoFundMe profile set up here.