The river Ene in the Junin region of Peru has been the site of one the great victories achieved by indigenous communities. In 2010, a 50 year energy agreement between Peru and Brazil resulted in the proposal of new hydroelectric projects throughout the Amazon. This included the Pakitzapango dam.
This 165 metre high dam was one of 6 proposed projects in Peru and would have dramatically affected the lands where the Ashaninka communities are based. The impacts would have been grave – An estimated 10,000 Ashaninka would have been displaced if the project was a success.
A feasibility study was conducted and concessions to the land by the state were awarded without the knowledge of the communities. In response to the project, the communities launched a legal battle against the state led by the CARE president at the time, Ruth Buendia. “They think we’re going to break windows and protest like in Conga, but we aren’t,” Ms. Buendia said, “Just as they do to us with legal documents we are going to do to them.”
The Ashaninka communities of the river Ene presented this statement on the impacts of the project on the communities:
‘The Ene River is the soul of our territories: it feeds our forests, animals, plants, crops and above all, our sons.
For the Ashaninka People, the Pakitzapango (Eagles’ House) is sacred and an important part of our cultural and spiritual heritage, since our roots originated here. The Ashaninka from the Ene River participated in the creation of the Otishi National Park and Communal Ashaninka Reserve, and our communities are part of the buffer zone of the park, which contain some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet.
Despite all the above mentioned, the Government brings us new threats: the concession of our territory to companies for the construction of a hydroelectric plant in the sacred place of Pakitzapango, which would cause forced displacements and severe impacts on our territory, such as in the protected natural areas.
We see these abuses to our territory as acts of violence and direct attacks on our lives and our existence as a People.’
After a lengthy legal battle, the project was put on hold. This is testament to the incredible strength of the Ashaninka communities that to this day, fight to protect their land and their livelihoods.