“This wind is part of our culture, traditions, spirituality, but for these companies it is a source of wealth, coming both from the sale of wind energy as well as the sale of carbon credits and the access to other mechanisms of the ill-named ‘green economy,’” denounced assemblies of indigenous people from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca in a letter addressed to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the end of February.
The indigenous inhabitants are opposed to the installation of wind farms in their territories, ensuring that the concessions were not subject to free and informed prior consultations as is established in the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 for indigenous and tribal peoples, ratified by Mexico in 1991.
For their part, local and government authorities have organized assemblies and they ensure that the majority of indigenous communities of the Tehuantepec Isthmus have given their consent for the installation of wind farms.
In statements to the news site desInformémonos, Rodrigo Peñaloza, member of the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples for the Defense of the Earth and Territory (APIDTyT), affirmed that the assemblies that the government convenes are not consultations.
“They are thinking to do [the consultations] as they do it for the [political] parties”: in one day and drawing some names at random, he said. A “prior, free and informed” consultation could take two years to develop.
“Before any consultation, ample and sufficient information in the native language is required, that says who the investors are, what would be the economic benefit for the businessmen and the community, as well as the environmental impact,” Peñaloza explained. “It is a [currently] in force international agreement that the government signed before the ILO. The [subsequent] governments turned a deaf ear on [the agreement] because for them the indigenous people do not exist.”
Since 2000 the Mexican government has bet on wind energy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Currently there are 18 operating wind farms, nine under construction and a dozen projects, mostly in Oaxaca.
Although the indigenous communities receive a yearly payment for wind rights of 1,500 pesos (US$122) per hectare, 12,500 pesos ($1,016) for soil use, and 10,000 pesos ($813) per hectare for rights to access or damages, the main impacts are the tears in the social and community fabric, polarization and conflicts within the communities as well as displacement, prostitution, and increase in costs of living and poverty, ensures APIDTyT.
The environmental impacts include total soil loss due to erosion and ground cover, impacts on cultivation areas to build paths, electrical wiring, and wind turbine bases, as well as loss of biodiversity due to impacts to fragile mangrove zones, among others.