Image credits: Nicholas Doherty
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News Article

Zapotec Community Continues its Battle Against EDF Wind Farm

By Kristelle Gutiérrez | Wed, 05/04/2022 - 10:01

Members of an Indigenous Zapotec community from Unión Hidalgo, Oaxaca have urged state utility CFE to terminate a contract with EDF Renewables and to halt the construction of the Gunaa Sicarú wind farm, which they claim is illegally under development on ancestral communal land. This marks the seventh consecutive year of an ongoing battle between the community and EDF, as the company emphasizes it keeps community interests as a top priority.

 

Joined by the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Project (ProDESC), a Mexican NGO, the Zapotec community leaders have addressed Manuel Bartlett, Managing Director, CFE, alleging that EDF did not comply with the original contract for the project. Although it stipulated that the operations at Gunaa Sicarú would start on Jan. 1, 2022, this did not happen. Additionally, they argue that the project illegally occupies communal land and that by carrying on with its development, it would constitute a violation of the Zapotec community’s human rights.

 

“We urge CFE to take this historical opportunity to start making reparations for all of the damages this project has caused. The wind farm [should not be made] because it was not built on time, but also because it has cost us and the whole nation our land and livelihood. Gunaa Sicarú[‘s project] must be called off,” said Guadalupe Ramírez, community member and land activist from Unión Hidalgo.

 

Gunaa Sicarú is one of four wind farm projects that EDF has in its Oaxacan portfolio. According to EDF, the 67.5MW wind farm La Ventosa started operations in 2010. The 164MW Bii Stinu wind farm featuring 82 Gamesa G80-2.0MW wind turbines was commissioned and became operational in 2014. In that same year, the company finalized its third project, the 160MW Santo Domingo wind farm. In 2015 the company began the development of the 300MW Gunaa Sicarú wind farm, located in the municipalities of Unión Hidalgo and Juchitán de Zaragoza of Oaxaca. Reportedly, the project is being developed in an area of approximately 4,700 ha, with just 3 of this environment being occupied by the project itself, according to EDF’s information. The company adds that the 97 percent of the land is left available for the local communities to carry out traditional agriculture and grazing activities.

 

The company also emphasizes that it has taken on “environmental and social evaluation through an indigenous consultation process with the communities where the project is to be installed … carried out by the federal government’s Ministry of Energy (SENER) in accordance with international standards and the guidelines of Mexico’s Constitution.” However, in 2018 a judge ordered the suspension of the project as EDF had failed to consult the Zapotec community as outlined by Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO). A consultation was indeed carried out in 2019, but was viewed as illegitimate by the community and has since been dismissed, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRCC). An in-depth article from Bloomberg from 2021 suggests that differing interests within the communities may have caused a major rift in the area.

 

In Sept. 2021, Oaxaca’s First Collegiate Court of Administrative and Civil Matters of the Thirteenth Circuit ruled unanimously in favor of the Juchitán de Zaragoza Farming Community in their request for an amparo to cancel the development of energy projects on ancestral lands. Nevertheless, EDF then claimed that the Court’s decision would not affect the development of Gunaa Sicarú.

 

In Dec. 2021, four UN Special Procedures have sent joint requests for additional information to Mexico’s and France’s governments.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Business and Human Rights Resource Center, EDF, Energía Hoy, MBN.
Photo by:   Nicholas Doherty
Kristelle Gutiérrez Kristelle Gutiérrez Junior Journalist & Industry Analyst