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central america

by admin — last modified Apr 20, 2007 12:20 PM

impacts of climate change

A series of articles by Bund/Friends of the Earth Germany - 1st published in Frankfurter Rundschau


Climate Change in Central America

Losses and harms caused by climate change in Central America are becoming more evident every day. In El Salvador, rivers that before were permanent are now seasonal, and rivers that are normally dry from November to April are now completely dry. Forecasts suggest a possible increase in the intensity and duration of droughts. This impacts food production and the livelihoods of many Salvadorans.


cc_centralamerica_1.jpg Perhaps even more worrisome, recent research has linked climate change to the increased intensity of severe weather events like hurricanes. In October 2005, Hurricane Stan struck Mexico and Central America. The storm caused pervasive flooding, the overflow of rivers and gorges, and landslides that buried houses and people. The countries most affected in Central America were Guatemala and El Salvador, where the governments declared a national state of emergency.


The people most affected by the storm, as always, were the families who live in extreme poverty. In Guatemala, at least 1,500 people were killed and up to 3,000 were confirmed missing. Panabaj, an impoverished Mayan village near Lake Atitlan in the department of Solola, was wiped out by a mudslide that killed every member of the community. In El Salvador, 65 people died, 300 communities were affected, and more than 54,000 people more forced to leave their homes.


cc_centralamerica_2.jpg According to the Salvadoran Committee of National Emergencies, “the emergency exceeded the capacity of the aid organizations. There were floods everywhere, bridges on the verge of collapse, landslides, and dozens of roads blocked by mud.”

This storm is evidence of the social, economic, ecological, and political vulnerability of Central American nations to the impacts of climate change.


In Central America, people are beginning to understand that these catastrophes are occurring with increasing intensity because of climate change. These countries contribute very little to the problems compared to industrialized countries, but Central Americans and other people from poor nations will bear the brunt of the impacts.


Why Large Dams Are Not the Answer

cc_centralamerica_3.jpg One of the technologies proposed by the World Bank in the, ‘Clean Energy and Development: Towards an Investment Framework' is large hydropower. Large dams have caused numerous problems in communities in Central America, and there is substantial public sentiment against the building of dams.


The areas where dams are built are often located in indigenous and farming communities, which are rich in natural and cultural resources. When the dams are built and areas are flooded, it destroys peoples' security and livelihoods. Dams can also displace large numbers of people. According to the World Commission on Dams, 40 to 80 million people have been displaced during the construction of 45,000 dams.

cc_centralamerica_4.jpg Dams cause serious environmental and social impacts. And often, these large hydroelectric projects do not supply electricity to towns and communities. Instead, the electricity goes to multi-national corporations and industries for operations that do not benefit the people.


Many demonstrations and protests have occurred in Central America over the construction of large dams. Instead of building more dams, Central America must explore other possibilities and technologies for producing clean energy that will benefit communities.


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