Controversial EDC-financed Ituango dam in Colombia scheduled to be operational on November 30

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: PBI-Colombia accompanying Isabel Cristina Zuleta, spokesperson for Ríos Vivos, at a protest in Valdivia, Antioquia, June 2016. In March of this year, she was elected to the Colombian Senate as part of the Historic Pact (Pacto Histórico) coalition.

The Spanish news agency EFE reports: “Thousands of workers are toiling around the clock in an underground cavern to launch initial operations at what will be Colombia’s largest hydroelectric project – a massive embankment dam on the Cauca River.”

That article highlights that construction on the dam began in 2010, was to have concluded in 2018, but now the first two of the hydroelectric plant’s eight turbines are scheduled to enter into operation on November 30.

EFE also notes: “Two other turbines are expected to be ready in the fourth quarter of 2023, three more in 2025 and the last in December 2026.”

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project has previously posted: “Several of the cases that the Corporation for Judicial Freedom [CJL] is working on focus on defending the environmental rights of communities, and more specifically, the right to water. One of the sadly famous cases in this area is that of the controversial Hidroituango hydroelectric project, located in the municipality of Ituango.”

The Hidroituango hydroelectric dam is being built in northwest Antioquia by the Colombian state-owned utility Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM).

EPM has twice benefitted from the support of the Government of Canada financing agency Export Development Canada (EDC). In 2016 and 2017, EDC provided EPM with financing totalling between 500 million and one billion dollars.

The province of Quebec pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec has also provided financing for the dam.

In 2019, the Corporation for Judicial Freedom published a study of twelve municipalities affected by the construction of this hydroelectric plant.

That report highlighted the crimes committed by paramilitary groups and State agents, who individually or jointly have acted against local populations, social leaders, human rights defenders and political opponents.

In July 2021, PBI-Colombia also tweeted: “Last week PBI accompanied @dhColombia [the Associated Network of Human Rights Defenders] in Toledo in #Antioquia. On July 16, several local organizations, affected by the megaproject #Hidroituango, gave an account; the next day they delivered a report to the #CommissionDeLaVerdad [the Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition].”

El Espectador has also reported that dhColombia lawyer Germán Romero Sánchez has represented those affected by the construction of Hidroituango.

Isabel Cristina Zuleta of the Rios Vivos movement has stated: “Since its launch in 1997, this megaproject has been imposed by violence and the forced displacement of the population, victims of the armed conflict.”

For a short video (from July 2018) with English subtitles, please see Isabel Zuleta Denounces Flooding of Hidroituango Dam.

PBI-Colombia has accompanied the Corporation for Judicial Freedom (CJL) since 2000 and dhColombia since 2016.

We continue to follow the situation in Antioquia and to call for greater accountability in the Canadian financing of extractive projects.

Isabel Zuleta speaking in Ottawa in November 2019.

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