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For Immediate Release, October 6, 2010

Contact: 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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