Water defenders who have challenged fracking and Veolia-operated landfill among those who receive death threat in Barrancabermeja

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Oscar Sampayo and Yesid Blanco.

On November 4, El Espectador reported that 18 people, 14 of whom reside in Barrancabermeja, are named in a pamphlet from Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) that says they have 24 hours to leave the territory or they will be declared a military target.

W Radio added: “The people mentioned have denounced the environmental damage caused by the authorities in the oil port, in the Ciénaga de San Silvestre and other tributaries that supply water to more than 300,000 inhabitants of this sector.”

Now Infobae reports that six of those threatened are members of the Alliance for a Colombia Free of Fracking (including Oscar Sampayo and Yesid Blanco) and that three of those who were threatened had filed a protection action against Ecopetrol, Aguas de Barrancabermeja, Veolia and various environmental authorities just three weeks ago.

Semana Sostenible explains that the Ciénaga de San Silvestre, a wetland area that supplies drinking water to Barrancabermeja, has been contaminated for years by agriculture and livestock (notably thousands of hectares of African palm and large herds of cattle and buffalo), the Ecopetrol oil refinery, and the Esmeralda, Anchicayá and Yerbabuena garbage dumps (the latter two landfills were authorized in 2013-14).

That article in Semana Sostenible further notes that the Yerbabuena landfill is operated by Veolia (formerly Rediba SA).

In July 2019, PBI-Colombia accompanied CREDHOS on a boat tour (along with Oscar Sampayo) that included the San Silvestre marsh where this PBI-Colombia article noted: “This swamp has a worrying story to tell: massive pollution generated by leachate from the landfill site in Barrancabermeja, operated by the Rediba company.”

Yesid Blanco has noted that he has drawn “attention to mercury contamination of the city’s water supply associated with a sanitary landfill that threatens a protected wetland.” He has also previously explained that the landfill operated by Rediba is situated in the village of Patio Bonito in the district of La Fortuna in Barrancabermeja.

This past June, Vanguardia reported that dozens of residents in Patio Bonito blocked access to the now Veolia-operated landfill over the alleged failure to deliver drinking water three times a week (instead water was only being delivered once a week).

(In August, it also reported that Veolia damaged the El Monte stream of the village of Chocoa de Girón during the construction of a landfill that lacks an environmental licence.)

El Tiempo highlights that more than 80 organizations of the National Network for Democracy and Peace have demanded that “the Colombian State guarantee the appropriate political and material measures for the protection of the life and integrity of the victims of this threat [from the Black Eagles], as well as of all those who work for the defense of water, life, the environment and the territory in Magdalena Medio and in every corner of the country.”

Yesterday, PBI-Colombia tweeted its concern about this situation along with a video of CREDHOS president Ivan Madero Vergel.

PBI-Canada shares their concerns.

We recall that the United Nations General Assembly has recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. This includes the obligation to protect that requires States to prevent third parties from interfering with the enjoyment of the right to water, notably polluting and inequitably extracting from water resources.

Categories: News Updates


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