Translated by: Emily Schmitz, a CSN volunteer translator
Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN volunteer editor
The Pacha Mama and the Magdalena River; opposition to the construction of the Quimbo hydroelectric project. The attempted diversion of the Magdalena River on the third of March has failed, according to current confirmations, stating that the river has not only risen but continues following it’s normal path. The deadline, given by Emgesa, to implement the river’s diversion, expires; the Magdalena has spoken in favor of the people.
While this is welcoming news, many remain outraged by recent declarations of the national government that back the megaproject. Because of these declarations, the Living Rivers Movement declares to the national and international public that:
- The unconditional support of president Santos’ government for the Emgesa Company and its hydroelectric project in Quimbo proves the continuation of policies and practices from the past. These are policies that have prioritized investor trust and economic interests over the well-being of the Colombian people and have violated constitutional principles and Colombian law. President Santos, just like former president Urive Velez, continues to stigmatize the struggle of social movements. In previous declarations, Santos pubically stated that guerrilla had infiltrated the non-violent movement in Asoquimbo. These accusations are made knowing that they will bring serious risks to the security and livelihood to social leaders and Colombian citizens that are massively backing Asoquimbo. We declare that the head of the State will be responsible for any possible reactions that these declarations could have.
- The attempts to divert the river were made in an irregular manner. As denounced by Asoquimbo, the Emgesa Company failed to comply with environmental licensing requirements: they should have restored campesino lands and lifestyles before changing the rivers course (more than 1200 people had been left out of the census), they should have constructed a station to monitor water above and below the deviation tunnel, and the deviation was not authorized by Cormagdalena.
- The present mining energy policy proposed by ex-president Alvaro Urive Velez government and propelled by Santos, will remove campesinos, indigenous and African communities from their lands while, under the name of development and progress, will privilege the interests of national and international economic groups. The politics of mining-energy has made social and environmental conflicts invisible and has failed to recognize the consequences of agricultural abandonment in important regions of the country; abandonment that threatens alimentary and energy sovereignty such as was made evident in the National Itinerant Panel on Mining Energy Policy by the Living Rivers Movement in 2011.
- We denounce the connivance between national policy and the private company EMGESA, restricting the use of the constitutional right to protest and free mobility throughout the zone. Impartiality is not a principle that public forces have respected. For example, members of public forces, without identification and with their last names covered up, pushed human rights defenders and prohibited them to circulate in a public road leading to the concentration of events on Saturday, March 3. Additionally, on multiple occasions the head of EMGESA security was seen giving orders to ESMAD, police and military.
- Hydroelectric energy is not renewable, clean nor alternative. Millions of people have been displaced by the construction of hydroelectric dams, the dynamics of important rivers around the world have drastically transformed by dams, and many rivers have lost fish diverity due to dams, as has been made known by the World Commission on Dams. Additionally, the decomposition organic material, flooded by reservoirs, produces methane gas; one of the most aggressive greenhouse gases. Traditional ways of living are vulnerable to dams, remove campesinos from their lands, and violate human rights. Companies do not comply with agreements established by law nor with communities, such as projects in Salbajina, Urra and Anchicaya in Colombia. Due to this, and for many other reasons, we state that: dam energy is not clean energy!
- It is necessary to deepen and orient the public debate around mining-energy policy toward the transformation of the energy sector. Although mining policy has been debated throughout the country, energy continues to be unknown and invisible. The reality is that this country is not only fragmented by mining blocks given to transnational companies, but also that petroleum companies continue to expanding borders to deep seas, forests and high Andean zones. Today mining blocks overlap petroleum blocks. The panorama becomes increasingly complicated as a large part of our rivers and creeks are given over to national and international companies for hydroelectric projects. Our dependence deepens as mining and energy resources are disputed by industrialized countries and emerging economies.
- Government aspirations of large-scale mining are not possible without large quantities of water and energy. Meanwhile, social and environmental impacts in the reproduction of the water cycle are irreversible and devastatingly affect food production. Despite this, planned and projected energy production nowadays does not exist to satisfy the necessities of the Colombian people but rather to export and guarantee extractive production.
- Lastly, we would like to thank the innumerable manifestations in solidarity with Huila and with Asoquimbo: the marches and protests on March 2nd and 3rd in Medellin, Cali, Bogota, Neiva, La Plata, and Garzon, along with the urgent action released by the Latin American Dam Network, and signed by more than 3,400 people and sent to the Environmental and Sustainable Development Ministry, the Alto Magdalena Autonomous Corporation, the Vice President of the Republic and the General Secretary of the Republic, soliciting a halt to the diversion of the river and rejecting the Quimbo Dam. This urgent action is evidence of the national and international discontent with these types of megaprojects that favor certain national and international economic groups. It is false that opposition to the project includes only a handful of people.
In response, we would like to call out to those who design mining-energy policy and the general community in order to:
- Open a wide national debate to define and conceptualize the condition of those affected by mining and energy projects. This requires a special legal mark that guarantees the protection of rights. The process of defining those ‘affected’ through census data should be done by autonomous organizations and not by the companies themselves; they should not convert into judges nor be part of these process just as they should not continue to be part of the Environmental Impact Studies process.
- Continue debates, forums, and mobilizations in response to mining-energy policy throughout the country and, from these movements, construct alternatives. Unlike President Santos and his ministry, we believe that the construction and defense of the country is collective and, for this reason, we thank the gestures of solidarity from students, union organizers, campesinos, fishermen, environmentalists, men, women, children and adults. We cannot be blind nor complacent as we face these projects, as their impacts transgress state and national borders and threaten general well-being. In defense of our livelihoods and cultures, we reject these dams.
- Continue constructing alternatives to development, a process conducive only to the displacement of communities and the imposition of livelihoods outside of the identity of the Colombian people.
Lastly, we would like to call the national and international community to attention in order to:
- Mobilize on March 6 in solidarity with the victims of State crimes, mobilizing for land and against displacement. We also are victims of the State and this has caused our displacement and removal from our lands due to the construction of dams.
- Join mobilizations on March 14, XV International Day of Action for Rivers, Water and Life and against Dams. Today, at 9 a.m., we convene to tribute the Magdalena River and travel to Huila in order to accompany the social mobilization to defend territory.
In Medellin, Bogota, Lorica, Santander and Ituango there will also be specific mobilization and resistance acts.
Water for life, not for death!
COLOMBIAN LIVING RIVERS MOVEMENT
ASSOCIATION FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY THE QUIMBO HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT: 4 YEARS OF PEACEFUL RESISTANCE AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE!
Title: Press Release to the General Public
Author: The Living River Movement
Location: None provided
Date Published: March 5, 2012
Source: The Living River Movement
(This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.)