As Mexico strives to find alternatives to non-renewable power sources, finding a balance between development, new technologies and citizens’ concerns is proving difficult, as recent developments in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec have shown.
An US $850-million wind farm project to be developed by Energía Eólica del Sur in the region, while controversial, was approved in August by a community assembly after months of consultation.
The project was the first in Oaxaca to undergo a new review process intended to be open and inclusive, and one that followed international regulations requiring consultation with indigenous groups and public approval.
The approval was not unanimous, however, and a group of over 1,000 Binnizá people (Zapotecs of the Isthmus) appealed the decision, claiming violations in the consultation process.
Last Friday, a judge granted an amparo, or injunction, agreeing with the claim of rights violations on the part of several authorities, including the Secretariats of Energy (Sener) and Environment (Semarnat), bringing the project to a halt.
Indigenous organizations believe that “[the amparo] is an important achievement for the indigenous peoples of the country in the fight for the preservation of their territory.”
The Mexican Center for Environmental Law (Cemda) has detailed inconsistencies in the approval of the Eólica del Sur project, claiming that government officials granted permits and licenses before the consultation stage was over, violating the indigenous communities’ rights to an informed process.
This situation was condemned before the United Nations, where James Anaya, former rapporteur on human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, said the Mexican government had applied the consultation process with serious deficiencies.
In August, a local organization that goes by the name PODER charged that the Regulatory Energy Commission had authorized Energía Eólica del Sur to start construction six months before the end of the consultation process.
The Binnizá have claimed that, since filing the amparo, they have been subjected to threats and harassment.
A narrow and windy piece of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is considered one of the best regions in the world for the development of the wind power industry. The Mexican Association of Eolic Energy says there are 21 wind farms in the area.
The Eólica del Sur project calls for the installation of 132 aerogenerators, with a capacity of 396 megawatts and an estimated per-hour production of 310 gigawatts.
Source: Sin Embargo (sp)