Export Development Canada provides financing to Isagen in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Sogamoso Dam.

According to the Export Development Canada (EDC) webpage for Individual Transaction Information, the Government of Canada’s export credit agency recently provided between $100 million and less than $200 million to Isagen SA.

In January 2016, Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management bought a majority share (57.6 per cent) in the Colombian power generation and distribution company Isagen (and its Sogamoso hydroelectric dam). This despite, as Euractiv has reported: “The Sogamoso dam in northern Colombia, where, between 2009 and 2014, six activists have been killed and many more disappeared without a trace.”

The Globe and Mail has also reported that Brookfield was one of the largest recipients of EDC financing between 2001 and 2018.

Complaint from fishers in lower basin of Sogamoso River

Less than two weeks after the date of signing noted in the EDC chart above, El Espectador reported:

After a complaint made by fishermen of the lower basin of the Sogamoso River, who assured that on December 25 and 26 [2022] there was a severe drought and fish mortality in some municipalities of Santander that are downstream of the Hidrosogamoso dam, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Susana Muhamad, called on hydroelectric plants not to make abrupt closures of gates.

Muhamad said: “With respect to the situation that happened in Hidrosogamoso, the Sogamoso River and the downstream affectation, both to the ecosystem and to the communities, we must express an urgent and important call to the hydroelectric companies of Colombia not to close the gates without notifying the communities, without planning and without transitions so that the ecosystems adjust.”

She added: “It is very clear in the monitoring of the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA) that from one day to the next the Sogamoso River went from 500 cubic meters per second to 80 cubic meters which, although it is the ecological flow, does not seem to be enough to guarantee the life of the River, the fish and also the sustainability of the fishermen and the inhabitants who depend on it.”

Tweet by Minister Susana Muhamad: “Regarding the situation of Hidrosogamoso, we will review the minimum ecological flows and the procedures for opening and closing floodgates, to guarantee the life of the Sogamoso river and the rights of the amphibian and peasant communities that depend on it.”

“El monstruo” and the fishing village of La Playa

In July 2022, Mongabay also reported:

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.

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.

Fish and bird deaths in Barrancabermeja

And in March 2020, El Espectador reported:

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.

This past summer, PBI-Canada visited the San Silvestre wetlands along with FEDEPESAN, CREDHOS and PBI-Colombia.

We organized this webinar on December 7, 2022, as a follow-up to that visit.

Photo: On November 3, 2019, CREDHOS president Ivan Madero along with Andrea Nocove and Julia Figueroa from CCALCP also stopped outside the Brookfield office in Toronto.

Photo: On November 5, 2019, CREDHOS, CCALCP, Amnesty International, PBI-Colombia and PBI-Canada met with EDC in Ottawa.

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