Leandra Zanqueta, a Brazilian lawyer and DU LLM student (second from right in the picture), was one of six presenters at the hearing. Ms. Zanpueta appeared at the hearing in her capacity as the "DU Environmental Law Clinic-LLM International Scholar.
Ms. Zanqueta's summary of the hearing follows:
The hearing was requested by the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), an organization that the DU clinic represents, and International Rivers with the support of more 40 other organizations. The AIDA’s presentation was based on its report, “Large Dams in the Americas: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?” which explores the environmental and social damage caused by large dams that do not comply with international standards required to protect the environment and human rights.The other members of the delegation were:
The presenters’ objective was to advise and educate the IACHR, governments, international financial institutions (because of their financial support of dam projects), and policy-makers about the violations. In addition, the hearing represented a public tool to alert the international community to the importance of the environmental and social impact assessments that have been disregarded in these infrastructure projects. As a result, the petitioners were hoping to convince the global community – and the IACHR in particular – to pay more attention to the matter, while also delivering strong recommendations to the states in order to encourage them to respect the international rules.
We spoke about the most common environmental problems generated by large dams, such as inundation of strategic ecosystems, alteration of the natural flows of water, disruption of wildlife habitat, obstruction the migratory paths of diverse fish species, contribution to the climate change and global warming through the emission of greenhouse gases, contamination of potable water, and seismic effects among others. Meanwhile, from the human rights side, the most common violations identified were forced displacement of vulnerable communities (usually indigenous, of Afro-descendant, and poor farming populations), the loss of food sources and livelihoods, health risk, lack of access to information, lack of public consultation, failure in
giving fair compensation, criminalization of social protests, threats, among others.
- Rafael Gonzáles Ballar, Costa Rican lawyer with many years of experience in environmental protection and human rights, AIDA’s vice-president.
- Shannon Lawrence, International assessor for the International Rivers (International ONG) who works on promoting social and environmental standards, as well alternatives to development of water and energy.
- Gabriel Espinoza, a Catholic priest who lives in an affected area by the Zapotilho Mega Dam in Mexico.
- Astrid Puentes, Colombian lawyer and co-director of AIDA since 2004.
- Jacob Kopas, lawyer graduated from Harvard who works for AIDA.