For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Jacki Lopez, (415) 436-9682 x 305

Listing of Panama's Internationally Recognized Park as "In Danger" Would Highlight Plight of People and Fish Threatened by Dams

SAN FRANCISCO - The World Heritage Centre and the International Union for
Conservation of Nature today recommended that Panama’s La Amistad
National Park be placed on the United Nations’ list of “World Heritage
in Danger” sites. The park, which straddles Costa Rica and Panama, is
recognized as a World Heritage Site by the UN’s Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The heart of the site is the
Changuinola River, a river system that provides habitat for hundreds of
rare, endemic, endangered and migratory species.

This remarkable ecosystem, though, is at risk of
destruction from a series of dams being constructed in Panama by
Virginia-based AES Corporation. The first of these dams will flood four
Ngöbe villages and create impassible barriers for fish species the
tribes rely upon, such as the mountain mullet and the bocachica. 

A State of Conservation Report
prepared for the World Heritage Committee found that the construction
of the dams is likely to result in the direct loss of 16 species of
fish and shrimp and have negative impacts on other biodiversity. It
found that the proposed mitigation measures are inadequate to protect
against impacts of the dams and requested that the government of Panama
halt all dam construction until it conducts a comprehensive
environmental assessment of all the proposed dams and identifies the
least environmentally damaging option to meet energy and
water-management needs.

“Panama’s government should take the recommendation to
place La Amistad on the UN ‘danger list’ as a very clear signal from
the international community that these dams should not be built,” said
Jaclyn Lopez, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney. In April, the
Center provided UNESCO with a report on the predicted impacts of the dams.

The area made up of Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves
and La Amistad National Park has been on the World Heritage List since
1983 and represents a unique ecological gem along the boundary of Costa
Rica and Panama. Following an IUCN mission to the area, the
government of Panama was required to produce a detailed report on the
state of conservation efforts and mitigation with regard to the site.
The IUCN and World Heritage Centre found that the recently submitted
report failed to provide adequate mitigation measures and that the dam
construction would lead to the irreparable loss of biodiversity. Of
more than 900 properties designated on the World Heritage List, only 34
are on the list of those in danger. Placing a property on the list is
designed to let the greater international community know of factors
threatening the site and to encourage corrective action.

Learn more about the Center’s efforts to protect La Amistad.


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