Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo’s Report on His Visit to the Canal del Dique Disaster Zone

Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo, Bogota, February 23, 2011

[Source: Tribuna Roja, Independent Workers' Revolutionary
Movement (MOIR)]

(Translated by Susan Tritten, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by
Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)

This past weekend, February 12 and 13, and Monday, February
as part of the Ad Hoc Senate Committee on Economic and Social
Cartagena Bay with the Magdalena River] region in the Atlantico
and Bolivar departments [states], the zone affected by the
season disaster at the end of last year. I was in the
of San Estanislao, Soplaviento, San Cristobal, Manati,
Candelaria and Campo de la Cruz. I returned to Bogota very shocked,
as were my committee colleagues, by the extremely hard
that thousands of my fellow Colombians, who feel abandoned
by the
State, are experiencing.

I would like to make some comments that may be useful:

Few Colombians know that an enormous area, tens of
thousands of
hectares, of the Canal del Dique region is still flooded,
although the
Santa Lucia, Atlantico, gap has been closed, and in some
parts the
flood no longer covers the highest parts of populated
areas. I hope
that television shows the country what is happening. The
brought destruction, unemployment and extreme poverty, and a
helplessness that, for obvious reasons, causes desperation in
victims after almost ninety days; many of them were left without any

The victims' appeal to drain the water as soon as possible
should be
emphasized, because their return to economic activities depends on it.

Now, through the force of gravity, water is draining out
through five
openings toward the El Guajaro swamp and even the Canal del Dique
itself. Juan Pablo Deik, Secretary of the Infrastructure of the
estimates that 80 percent of the flood waters should have

by mid-March, provided that the level of the Canal del
Dique permits
it and the rain does not raise the level of the Magdalena River again.
What remains will have to be drained by running large
pumps for six
months, if the government does what it said it would, but has not yet
managed to do. Governor Eduardo Verano has communicated these
necessities to the government; the Minister of Transportation
approved its feasibility; but Colombia Humanitaria [an
to collect private funds to aid flood victims] responded that it was not
aware of this. The situation may become complicated because
level of the Magdalena River rose three centimeters the day of our visit
and because this Tuesday, the 22nd, the director of Ideam
of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies] warned the

Moreover, although it may sound incredible, between Soplaviento
and San Cristobal, in Bolivar department, there is another gap of 150
meters in the Canal del Dique, in the Chorro de Las
Mestizas, about
which the government has done absolutely nothing, in spite of the fact
that it broke open in the middle of December. Through this break, the
municipalities of Soplaviento, San Cristobal and Mahates were flooded
and will be flooded once more if the levels or the Magdalena River and
the Canal del Dique rise again.

Attention to the victims almost three months after the
rupture of the
dike is completely inadequate. In the absence of
alternatives, large
numbers of them are packed into schools and suffer immeasurable
shortages, while thousands of students remain out of
school. And
more victims, putting up with suffocating heat, are crowded
improvised shelters of black plastic. The construction of
the so-
called accommodations, where the victims who leave the
schools are
supposed to live, progresses extremely, exceptionally, slowly.
that reach them, just as there are about the lack of
potable water
during very hot weather.

shelters, and they are treated as if they were not affected when they
were, and quite seriously. For them there are no safety nets. Not one
peso of what the government is committed to has arrived to
pay the

The resources of the department and municipalities are
limited and,
according to law, are committed to other necessities, which
them greatly in responding to the disaster. And the

funds, which are important and can be used for these
arrive extremely slowly, held up by a bureaucratic and
system that works at a snail's pace. Only nine billion pesos have been
transferred to the Family Compensation Fund (Comfamilia), the
contracted to supply food.

According to information from the Agricultural and Livestock
Association of the South Atlantic, agricultural production –
the main
economic activity of the region – disappeared almost totally
the flood waters. Manati, went from producing eight
thousand liters
of milk per day to only 500 liters. Candelaria, declined
from five
thousand to two hundred. Forty thousand hectares were flooded
at depths of up to five or ten meters, leaving in ruin
thousands of
campesinos and business owners. On the fourth of January,
at a
Command No. 3] in Malambo, the Minister of Agriculture
to writing off debts with the Agrarian Bank; but a short
while ago,
he said that would only apply to 95 percent and up to
fifteen million
pesos, and only if they were up to date in their
payments. This has
caused great consternation in the region, where they also
that they write off debts owed to other banks. It is
striking that it
has not occurred to the government to develop a coherent program of

As the waters subside in urban areas, one sees a lot of
waste, broken furniture, dead animals and a layer of mud
with all
kinds of creatures. This is an obvious sanitary problem,
with a
relatively easy solution, which has not been handled as it should have,

The government, although it has the funds and the legal
to use them, does not understand that as the waters subside and the
buildings dry out, it is necessary to clean, disinfect, and clear
them out
the State, because the poor victims have few resources. If this is done
the ones under discussion now, and many badly needed jobs would be

and the Magdalena River with technical and environmental rigor
and responsibility, just as with the rest of the country.
But the
Government of the Atlantico [department] already presented a
of projects to protect the south of the department from
new floods,

which could occur in the coming weeks. One of the
projects consists
of the construction of clay dikes that would protect densely populated
areas from more floods.

At the time this article was being edited, the police
suppressed a
behavior, negligent before and after the break in the Canal del Dique,
situation, is reprehensible.

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