South of San Cristóbal is the billion-dollar disaster known as the Chixoy dam and hydroelectric plant. The dam provides Guatemala with about half its electricity needs but the price of the project has been high. Unchecked deforestation in the area has increased sediment in the river thus reducing the efficiency of the power plant, and the cost of constructing the dam accounts for a sizeable chunk of all Guatemala’s considerable foreign-debt payments. Villagers displaced by the huge project are still fighting for compensation from the government more than twenty years after it was completed.

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