Residents in Piedras, Colombia say no to Calgary-based Parex’s Water for All initiative

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo by El Nuevo Dia.

In July 2013, the residents of the municipality of Piedras in the department of Tolima voted in a popular consultation against large-scale mining activities on their territory.

Americas Quarterly has reported that while Colombian law (Law 134 of 1994, Article 8) says it is obligatory for national authorities to respect the results of popular consultations, the Colombian government dismissed the results of the consultation, saying municipalities do not have the right to determine subsoil use.

Then on July 29 last year, RCN Radio reported: “The National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) signed two new contracts with the Canadian multinational Parex Resources Colombia Ltd, with the purpose of carrying out exploration and exploitation activities in the departments of Tolima and Meta.”

That article adds: “The National Government assigned the VSM 25 block, located in the Upper Magdalena Valley basin, which includes 27,608 hectares that are distributed in the municipalities of Ibagué, Alvarado, Coello, Piedras and San Luis.”

Now, El Nuevo Dia reports on opposition to Parex Resources in Piedras, Tolima.

That article notes: “In early July, the oil company … installed 230 metres of pipe for the community aqueduct of Doima, without consulting the aqueduct board or the users, an action that was seen as a way to take advantage of the shortcomings and the health crisis through which it currently crosses the territory.”

“Camilo Cifuentes, a resident of Piedras, said that people do not understand why despite the fact that there is a popular consultation that said no to mining and extractive activities Parex insists on operating in a municipality that is supposed to have been protected from this type of activity for about [the last] seven years.”

“Given the marked disagreements, representatives of Parex summoned several inhabitants to explain the reasons for their intervention and indicated that they are currently advancing phase I of the voluntary project ‘Water for all’, an initiative that the oil company develops in all the places in Colombia where it is located developing activities or that are in execution.”

On their website, Parex has previously explained: “Through these projects, Parex has managed to convey to the community that oil projects can contribute to the provision of clean water where the Company operates.”

Ibagué is another municipality in the department of Tolima that would be impacted by Parex’s planned activities in the VSM 25 block.

Last year, the Mayor of Ibagué, Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo, commented: “The Ibagué plateau has the fourth most important aquifer in the country, it is clean and necessary water for the future of a city since surface water is scarce. What would happen if there is an oil exploitation that contaminates those aquifers for us?”

Almost ten years ago, on July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly voted to explicitly recognize the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.

Canada was one of the 41 countries to abstain in that vote.

To read the full El Nuevo Dia article, please see In Doima the doors to the Parex oil company were closed once again.

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