Statement from the Social Movement for the Defense of the Sogamoso River
San Vicente de Chucuri, March 4, 2011
(Translated by Susan Tritten, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN Volunteer Editor.)
The Social Movement for the defense of the Sogamoso River is issuing an early warning about the risk facing the communities of the area affected by the Hidrosogamoso Dam. This danger was demonstrated on March 2 when the Tablazo Bridge, on the road between Bucaramanga and San Vicente de Chucuri, collapsed. This claimed the life of one worker and the disappearance of an as yet undetermined number of persons, among whom are a woman and a seven-year-old child.
Since last January 10, the Social Movement for the Defense of the Sogamoso River, with the support of various persons and organizations at the national and international levels, sent a request for urgent action to the Ministerio de Ambiente, Vivienda y Desarrollo Territorial [Department of the Environment, Housing, and National Land Development] and control agencies in which they reported that "the Hidrosogamoso Dam is being constructed in currently or potentially unstable sites, which present a potential risk" for the communities, and emphasized that "the project is located in one of Colombia's seismically active regions, at less than 70 kilometers from the Bucaramanga seismic nest, the most active in the country."
To date, the collapses in that area have continued; this has affected the ability of some families to remain on their land, communication with San Vicente de Chucuri, Barrancabermeja, and a dwindling food supply. To this is added the tragedy of the collapse of the Tablazo Bridge which is one of the sites that will be inundated by the dam and is classified in the Environmental Impact Study as an unstable active zone.
Given this situation, the Social Movement for the Defense of the Sogamoso River calls on the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Vivienda and Desarrollo Territorial, the government of Santander; ISAGEN, the hydroelectric power station owner; the Italian company Impregilo S.P.A., the project constructor; and the Santander Bank, which is financing the project, not to act with negligence and to stop this calamity; also, the consortium Sanchez Ltd., which was developing projects to maintain the bridge, should be investigated. The Hydrosogamoso Project should be discontinued in favor of guaranteeing the well-being of the inhabitants of the region.
Furthermore, the kind of event which occurred demonstrated the fragility and instability of the geography in areas under direct influence of the river. For that reason, we condemn that lack of information in the communities affected by the project, for, to date we have not been informed of the containment plan which "brings together various procedures and measures designed to prevent, deal with, or control the effects that may be produced in the event of an accident of construction, operational, natural or by other external sources in the area influenced by the hydroelectric project." This plan should be in effect from the beginning of the project, according to 2009's Resolution 1497 issued by the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Vivienda y Desarrollo Territorial, in which the Project Environmental License was modified; this is recorded in the part referring to process instability on page 94 of said resolution.
The communities and other organizations offer their condolences to the Badillo Silva, Monsalve Gomez, Torres Sarmiento and Gomez Cadena families for the loss of their loved ones. We demand respect for life and property and we encourage the general population to participate in the demonstration on March 14 to 16, in order to continue a strong defense of the Sogamoso River. This is part of the struggle to prevent people from being affected by mega projects. This demonstration will be organized at the national level by the Red Nacional de Pueblos Afectados y Amenazados por Represas y Trasvases [National Network of People Affected and Threatened by Dams and Diverted River Waters].
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