Toronto-based Brookfield owns Colombia’s fourth-largest dam that impacts artisanal fishers and the San Silvestre wetland

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: CREDHOS president Ivan Madero along with Andrea Nocove and Julia Figueroa from CCALCP outside the Brookfield office in Toronto, Canada during a Peace Brigades International-organized advocacy tour in November 2019.

Mongabay reports: “In La Playa, a fishing village of around 500 people in Santander, Colombia, well-kept houses and vibrant murals live in the shadow of el monstruo — the locals’ nickname for the Hidrosogamoso Dam, a mega project that has challenged local livelihoods and triggered a wave of activism.”

The article explains: “Operating since 2014 on the Sogamoso River, Hidrosogamoso is Colombia’s fourth-largest hydroelectric dam. But ISAGEN, the company that built the dam more than a decade ago, now owned by multinational Brookfield Asset Management, failed to consult the community and address concerns about the project’s social and environmental costs, according to local sources.”

“Hidrosogamoso’s reservoir, Topocoro, replaced about 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of forest and cropland, causing deforestation and loss of habitat and aquatic species diversity. More than 1,000 people had to relocate, while the livelihoods of those relying on the river for fishing, small-scale mining, and subsistence agriculture suffered, according to Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office and local NGOs.”

“Over a recent video call, four women from the Ríos Vivos movement told Mongabay that the local community continues to feel the long-term impacts of the dam, while also being threatened by pilot fracking projects in the area.”

The full article by Jane K. Feeney can be read at Displaced by a dam, women defenders fight for their land rights in Colombia.

Brookfield Asset Management

In January 2016, Toronto-based Brookfield bought a majority share (57.6 per cent) in the Colombian power generation and distribution company Isagen.

One of the dams Brookfield bought through its majority share in Isagen is the Sogamoso Hydroelectric Dam which is located 30 kilometres west of Bucaramanga.

Between 2009 and 2014, six activists were killed and many more were disappeared in relation to their opposition to the Sogamoso dam.

In March 2020, El Espectador published this article titled Community denounces fish and bird deaths in Barrancabermeja.

That article notes: “The fishermen of the San Silvestre spout, in Santander, denounce that since the middle of February there is a fish mortality in the place. According to them, this emergency is due to the fact that Isagen, a company in charge of the Sogamoso dam, opened the floodgates to feed the river that bears the same name.”

PBI-Canada visits the San Silvestre wetland

On the morning of Thursday June 30, PBI-Canada visited the San Silvestre wetland ecosystem in Barrancabermeja with Federation of Santander Fishers for Tourism and Environment (FEDEPESAN) president Yuli Velasquez, CREDHOS and PBI-Colombia and witnessed the impacts of Ecopetrol and large-scale agribusiness (buffalos and palm) on the water, wildlife and livelihoods of artisanal fishers.

On the afternoon of Tuesday July 5, we learned that Yuli had experienced an armed attack and that her guard had been shot.

On July 13, PBI-Colombia accompanied a mobilization by FEDEPESAN and CREDHOS in defence of life, water and the environment.

The CREDHOS-FEDEPESAN joint statement released that day highlights: “We recognize that the protection and conservation of our bodies of water is not only guarantee for the welfare of the artisanal fishermen, but also for the good living of entire communities that take advantage of its ecosystem services.”

They also highlighted: “The frequent presence of crude oil in Caño Rosario, a tributary of the San Silvestre swamp, product of the industrial activities of ECOPETROL. Similar situation occurs in the Guadualito swamp and in other areas of the swampy complex.”

Canadian financing impacts San Silvestre

The Banking on Climate Chaos website reveals Scotiabank’s investments in Ecopetrol. Scotiabank provided USD $665 million to Ecopetrol in 2018, another $666.67 million in 2020, and $1.7 billion in 2021 for a total of $3.0 billion in financing.

Bronwen Tucker of Oil Change International also shared on a recent PBI-Canada organized webinar this slide of the top recipients of Export Development Canada financing in Colombia between 2012 and 2020.

In May of this year, Al Jazeera reported: “Local environmental defenders and a representative of the JEP [Special Jurisdiction for Peace] told Al Jazeera that they suspected a connection between the paramilitary groups intimidating them and the state-owned Ecopetrol, which is behind the fracking project. …The company has been accused of having ties with the Gulf Clan [AGC] specifically.”

Infobae also recently reported: “In the testimony, [Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, alias Otoniel] spoke of an alleged link of the armed group [the Gulf Clan/AGC] with a director of the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Orinoquía, as well as contributions they received from the company Ecopetrol. According to the cited media [El Espectador], the oil company gave the group monthly contributions of 75 million pesos in exchange for providing security in two wells in the same department. He also revealed that he had allegedly traveled with them and that he could even use those aircraft to move members of the gang.”

We continue to follow this situation.

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