In Mexico, indigenous communities living in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca state - a region on the Pacific Ocean rich in biodiversity - have always relied on fishing and the careful management of natural resources for their survival and local economy. But today both are seriously threatened by a huge ‘clean energy' project.
The Ikoots people have lived here for more than 3,000 years and their history is so integrated with the sea that they are also known as Mareños ("oceaners"). Now Ikoots communities are struggling to defend their ancestral lands from multinational corporations who want to build wind turbines in the water. On land, the Zapotec farming communities are already protesting against the continued development of wind farms, which they say is ridding them of their precious land and brings no benefit. The following was written by a member of our Terra Madre Ikoots producers community; an appeal against the development of wind farms on over 100,000 hectares - an area comparable to the entire urban area of Rome or Berlin.
"We, the indigenous peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, are suffering the invasion of foreign companies with the complicity of the Mexican government. Our situation is increasingly difficult in the face of the "The Isthmus Wind Corridor" project - the placement of 5,000 wind turbines in 14 areas across the region on around 100,000 hectares of communal lands and ejidal (lands managed according to traditional Mexican law). In order to meet the energy demands of a few multinationals, the rights of indigenous peoples are being trampled on - such as the right to an open, prior and informed consultation to determine development strategies that preserve our culture and protect our territory as stipulated in Articles 3, 7, 8, 26, 32 of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations (2007).
The wind farm projects is already affecting the lives of Zapotec peoples, as well as our Ikoots communities, living in Isthmus - Mexico's windiest region. Zapotec communities that depend on agriculture and livestock farming have already seen their fields overtaken by wind turbines, limiting their food sovereignty and impoverishing soil fertility.
The Ikoots - Huave peoples of San Dionisio del Mar, San Mateo del Mar, Santa Maria del Mar and San Francisco del Mar, already share the wind, lagoon, mangroves and the abundance of the sea - with the migratory birds. However, today many have their eye on our windswept lands. What for us is a source of life and culture, is nothing more than a source of profit for large economic interests represented by the multinational companies. The Marena Renewables group, formed by MacQuarie Australia, Mitsubishi Japan and PGGM Netherlands, is planning to build 102 Vesta wind turbines (from Denmark) along the coastal waters of San Dionisio del Mar. Each turbine is 120 meters high and has a generation capacity of 2.5 MW. They will also need to build two electrical substations, five mooring docks and a power line in the lagoon: all this within a radius of 27 km of the area where we fish.
The energy produced is ultimately destined to supply multinational companies such as FEMSA Coca-Cola, Oxxo and Heineken breweries and Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma! In Santa Maria del Mar, Marena Renewables and the company Energía Alterna Istmeña plan to install a further 30 wind turbines along the southern shore of the Mar De Tileme lagoon. This will impact negatively on the underwater currents that unite the lagoons with the ocean and create noise pollution, with unknown impacts on the terrestrial and marine environment. The lagoons are not only a living environment for 30,000 indigenous Ikoots and Zapotecas, but also a natural breeding ground for thousands of birds, fish, crustaceans and amphibians.
San Mateo del Mar already said "No" to the proposed wind project in 2007. However, the Mexican government and big companies refuse to leave us in peace, causing divisions and conflicts in our communities. Even if we refused, the negative effects of this mega-project will hit us anyway, because we live in the same area and share the same ecosystems. Now we are asking ourselves: what will we live from if the sea and the lagoons are contaminated? A mother of two said: "My grandfather was a fisherman, my father is a fisherman, I come from the lagoon. If my children do not go on with their studies at the very least they should be able to continue this legacy of fishing in our waters."
We are opposed to the production of renewable energy when it is imposed by large corporations and governments on a large scale and involves the destruction of trees and ancient mangroves, killing thousands of migratory birds, leaving the land barren, contaminating the water, polluting the entire environment with noise, altering the currents of the sea and leaving the local indigenous peoples vulnerable. Can you still call energy "renewable" if its development brings an irreversible change to the balance of the environment and the communities who live there? If the interest is really to preserve the environment, no one would dare propose a wind project like this in a such a fragile region so rich in biodiversity.
We will continue to fight to protect our future from this invasion and destruction of our land and sea, but ours is not a fair fight: we face great economic interests that wield the power of money and, often, corruption. If we can stop this mega-project, we will defend and protect our sacred land that gives us life, and preserve our culture."
Braulio Villanueva Fajardo is President of Comisariado Bienes Comunales in San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca, México