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Artisanal fisherfolk lose their homes in Colombia after floods caused by El Quimbo Dam

Association of people affected by El Quimbo Dam (Asoquimbo – Ríos Vivos Colombia) held sit-in on Friday 9.

Fisherman in El Quimbo. Photo: Juan Carlos Albarracín/Asoquimbo.

On August 5, the Emgesa company issued a yellow warning in the area near El Quimbo Dam, due to  rising water levels in Magdalena River, which affects artisanal fisherfolk who live downriver.

The alarms went off at midnight, when the company opened the dam gates, releasing a large amount of water. Miller Falla, an artisanal fisherman of the area, testified: “Here, the water took my home, it destroyed it”.

In the video (in Spanish, below ), Leonardo Piedrahita, an artisanal fisherman, shows how his house was flooded at 5 am and denounces that “transnational company Emgesa has always been trying to remove the fishermen from this place, claiming the territory as their own”.

The El Quimbo Hydroelectric Project built by Emgesa, of international conglomerate Enel, was launched in February 2011. It is located to the South of Huila department, between the Central and Oriental mountain ranges, approximately 69 kilometers south of Neiva city. This is 1300 meters upriver from where the Páez River meets the Magdalena River.

For the Association of People Affected by El Quimbo Hydroelectric Project (Asoquimbo – Ríos Vivos Colombia) the collapse of the road from Gigante to Garzón (in Huila) was a clear indication of the risks suffered by the area. The incident left an area of the department completely isolated, and it is the second time something like this has occurred with a hydroelectric dam, after what happened last year to the Hidroituango Dam.

“What´s alarming about this situation is that no local, regional or national authority is taking responsibility. They all redirect us to Enel-Emgesa, who are only concerned about power generation”, said Camila Macías of Asoquimbo.

The organization is demanding that the authorities recognize the artisanal fisherfolk of the area as people affected by the project. They also call for the elaboration of an independent and detailed study about the risks posed by the dam and a contingency plan, highlighting the responsibility of the departmental and national government for having decided to build the dam in El Quimbo. “State silence is an accomplice to Emgesa´s impunity”, they stated in a press release issued on August 5, entitled “Who answers for the artisanal fisherfolk affected by the ‘controlled’ release of flows in El Quimbo?”



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