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The penalty imposed to the Hidroituango hydroelectric project by the Colombian National Authority for Environmental Permits is “almost laughable,” says Isabel Zuleta, spokesperson for the movement in defense of territories affected by dams, Ríos Vivos, of the Antioquia department.
The preventive measure of immediate suspension of the construction of the channel that goes from Puerto Valdivia to the dam (in northern Antioquia), because waste of those works were thrown into the river Cauca, does not have “the strength we expected, since the fishermen have no food, barequeros [artisanal gold extractors] are unemployed” as a consequence of this environmental impact, the activist told Real World Radio. In addition, Zuleta highlighted in an interview yesterday that “the international community must know the huge political pressure that the movement Ríos Vivos had to implement for a supposedly simple procedure of an environmental complaint."
The technical team of the Group of energy, dams, and reservoirs of the National Authority for Environmental Permits had made follow up visits to the affected area in October 5th to 7th and in November 11th to 13th, upon request of the movement Ríos Vivos. After that, the team recommended the preventive measure of an immediate halt on the construction of the channel from Puerto Valdivia to the dam, since the company “was not complying with the obligations under the Environmental Permit”, according to resolution no. 0027 of January 16th by the National Authority.
“The volumes of the material coming from the channel are abundant and they bury low vegetation, break and creep tree species, and finally are deposited in the bed of the Cauca river and are swept away by the waters,” reads the resolution, among other things. The company in charge of the venture, Empresas Públicas de Medellin, shall remedy the environmental damage.
In our interview on Monday with Zuleta, she said that Empresas Públicas de Medellin now has fired “about 1,800 workers in the area, according to calculations we have done, who were in charge of this part of the work. And Empresas Públicas blamed the movement Ríos Vivos for this massive dismissal. They are not holding us accountable for demanding our rights (in this case, to a healthy environment), but of violating the right to work,” she explained, which is worrying for environmental advocates since they are left in a position of vulnerability and insecurity.
Zuleta also mentioned the plight of barequeros and fishermen evicted by the police to Hidroituango works in the area ranging from Puente Pescadero upstream, to the beaches Sardinas and Guayacán de Ituango. The movement Ríos Vivos expects the National Authority for Environmental Permits to make a statement on this situation as well, also verified during its visits to the region in October and November last year.
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