Dutch pension fund PGGM is the under fire in Mexico because of its plans for a wind farm in the south of the country. Furious local farmers and fishermen are demanding that the project be abandoned.
The conflict centres on the Marena Renovables project, a wind farm under construction near the Indian village of San Dionisio del Mar on the Mexican west coast. Once completed, the project would be the largest wind farm in Latin America. It is being jointly financed by PGGM and two other foreign investors. .
In 2004, the local Ikoots Indians signed a contract with the investors granting them a thirty-year lease on the land. But local representatives now claim the deal was signed on the basis of incomplete information. Protestors say the developers have unilaterally increased the number of turbines from 40 to 132. They say the noise of the mills will have a negative effect on the livelihoods of local fishers and farmers.
Reacting to the criticism, PGGM says the negotiations were conducted fairly. The company claims the problems are related to disagreement amongst the locals over the division of money. “We deposited the funds for the local community in a central bank account and can only assume that it was then distributed fairly”, PGGM’s head of infrastructure Henk Huizing, told Dutch daily de Volkskrant. “We can’t verify that that is the case, and nor is it our responsibility”, he added.
San Dionisio del Mar is in the state of Oaxaca, on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a narrow stretch of land between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. With winds averaging 70 kilometres per hour, the region has enormous potential for sustainable energy. There are already 500 wind turbines scattered around the state and the Mexican government wants to see that number quadruple.
The atmosphere in the town has deteriorated steadily. Angry locals have sabotaged the construction of an access road, occupied the town hall and forced the mayor to flee. The protestors say they’ve had death threats from community leaders who are determined to see the project go ahead at all costs.
PGGM and the two other investors, the Mitsubishi Corporation and the Australian investment fund Macquarie admit that the conflict has intensified recently but are confident construction will continue.