Following several large protests, Costa Rica’s indigenous Terraba people have filed a lawsuit seeking to halt construction of a hydro-electric power station due to flood a large swath of their territory, officials said Wednesday.
The power plant is the biggest such project in Central America. It is expected to produce up to 630 megawatts starting in 2016.
The lawsuit was filed on March 21 by the Terraba Indian Territory development association before the administrative court, a spokesperson said.
According to Gabriella Habtom, secretary of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
…Costa Rica, through its state-owned electricity company, intends to construct a hydroelectric dam (“the Diquis dam”) that will flood at least ten percent of the Térraba people’s titled lands. As well as permanently depriving the Térraba of the use and enjoyment of these lands, the Diquis dam, if built in the manner currently proposed, will also flood a large number of sites of sacred, cultural and archaeological significance to the Térraba people. These include sites of fundamental importance to their identity, cultural integrity, and spiritual and religious freedom, including many hundreds of burial sites and geographical features that are considered to be ‘pillars of Térraba existence and identity’.
The Terraba number approximately 750 people. The proposed project would bring in 9,000 non-indigenous workers and their familes, causing long term, multi-generational social and environmental impacts on the region and the Terraba people.
According to the UN, only 1.68 percent of Costa Rica’s population is indigenous.