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el salvador & honduras: communities share experiences of resistance against mining and dams

Increasingly, the governments of Honduras and El Salvador are giving up their natural resources to exploitation by mining and hydroelectric megaprojects. Local people are left with the resulting severe and persistent pollution, such as contamination of waterways vital for drinking and bathing. Such megaprojects also compete with farmlands upon which communities depend for subsistence.

 

el salvador & honduras exchangeThe official government discourse regarding such megaprojects is that they are part of Plan Puebla Panama. This discourse plays up on the rhetoric of so-called “development”.  Yet this course of action simply sets up the conditions for the transnational looting of the region’s strategic resources, while ensuring a huge reserve of cheap labour is available to service the global capital.

Resistance is vital, and knowledge is the key tool for any resistance movement. For this reason, an exchange was organized to allow rural communities of Honduras and El Salvador to share their experiences, and to discover more about the ecological, social and cultural impacts of mining and dam megaprojects on the two countries’ peasant populations.

what happened: This exchange, facilitated by Friends of the Earth El Salvador / CESTA and Friends of the Earth Honduras / Madre Tierra, enabled affected local communities to obtain the full extent of information available on the different megaprojects planned for developed in their territories. Their main sources of information include what they hear and see in the media, as well as information from local level meetings.

what we learned: The information gathered in the exchange exposed how the region’s territories are being handed over to transnational corporations. For example, in Honduras 35,359 km2 —  31.4 percent — of its territory was handed over to Canadian and US corporations, and this does not include the land assigned to the building of 50 hydroelectric dams.

In El Salvador a total of 1,238.63 km2 has been granted in concessions to extractive mining operations, which is 6.2 percent of the nation’s territory. More lands would be consumed if 13 planned hydroelectric dams are built in rural areas — lands which now produce agricultural staples, and which are rich in biodiversity, water and forests.
 
As part of the exchange a joint declaration was made on the part of the Ecologist Movement of Honduras, FoE Honduras, COAPAZ (Honduran Action Committee for Peace), Vía Campesina, FoE El Salvador, the National Movement Against Dams, the Indigenous communities of Cacaotera de Morazan, and the Movement for the Rescue of the Culture of Mayan Peoples.

Challenging mining and mega-dam projects, the statement expressed the groups’ “opposition to these deadly projects, such as the metal industry, hydroelectric dams, highways and other megaprojects, planned for development in our rural areas, since it implies the destruction of our territory, the natural resources and the displacement of thousands of residents from their lands.”

In addition, the declaration says, “our conviction is to prevent these megaprojects from leaving our communities in extreme poverty in the name of development and job creation, [through megaprojects which] abuse the fundamental human rights of Indigenous and peasant communities by destroying and polluting the environment”. 

with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs

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