El Diquis Hydro-Electric Dam Project Is Controversial

Chances are that if you have been traveling to Costa Rica for a while, you have seen vast improvements in transportation, communication, health care, energy production and more. Beginning in the Central Valley area (San Jose), millions of dollars have been spent on infrastructure, the promotion of tourism and other needed improvements. From there, development in the northern area of Costa Rica happened rapidly and now, the Southern Zone of Costa Rica is being targeted… and for a good reason. With recent improvements on all roads leading from San Jose south, with the proposed improvements and expansion of the airport at Palmar Sur, comes more visitors and more residents. It’s time to get ready for progress and not get caught unaware and unprepared. This Southern Zone is just like Costa Rica used to be nationwide, a wide expanse of biodiversity… beautiful, raw and untouched. With the proper laws in place and enforcement of these laws a certainty, it is indeed a fact that this country will be able to improve this area without losing its beauty and draw.

The more-than-two-billion-dollar hydroelectric project, “El Diquis”, located between Buenos Aires, Osa and Perez Zeledon is an amazing and much-needed undertaking. Tens of thousands of hours have been spent on the initial planning stages with much international assistance. This project, conceived by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (I.C.E.), when finished will encompass over 6 million acres. This dam will create a lake three times the size of Lake Arenal! The dam will generate enough power to provide 1 million families with power. This is considered a positive for the local economy, for I.C.E. and the demand on them for the production of more power in the coming years and will encourage tourism to the area as well.

One major hurdle is a big one… many of the indigenous people in this area (the Boruca Indians) will have to be relocated. There are over 2,500 of them. Their lives will never be the same. You see, this dam will be made of steel and concrete and will measure 550 feet tall and 2,000 feet wide. There will be a 8-mile-long tunnel built 1,800 feet below the surface of the earth. A bridge will be built and as we discussed earlier, a huge lake will be created. This will have a huge impact on this sacred and ancient region… a major hurdle indeed. This is a perfect example of the age-old fight between economic progress and simple environmental protection. Is there a winner here? The Indians will achieve a much higher standard of living and educational opportunities no doubt will improve for them. By most standards, they live in poverty. For this boost, they will give up land that is important to them and has been for generations.

With that said, the Costa Rican government has set their path to the future. For what they will achieve, for the end product to be realized, sacrifices will have to be made by everyone involved. The benefits may be worthy of the sacrifices… we all shall see.


  1. Irl Rickman says:

    This Dam project saddens me. No one has the right to displace these people and destroy the natural ecosystem for the “common good” The people that own the dam and control the electricity are the only winners…. and i personally do not want to see “international big money” getting a foot hold in Costa Rica This is creating a “grid” that a lot of people are trying to get off of. smaller scale energy production like methane, solar and even hydro etc. as needed for the local communities is the way to go.