PBI-Colombia accompanies CREDHOS as it tests water in Yondó, calls for the right to water to be respected

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On February 1, PBI-Colombia posted: “We accompanied @credhos_paz [the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights] in Yondó #Antioquia during their water testing in order to assess the impact of different industries in the region, such as palm monocultures, mining and oil companies, among others. These water sources supply communities in this municipality. #RightToWater”

The Barrancabermeja-based CREDHOS also posted: “We are investigating the reality behind the water supply in Yondó, Antioquia. Together with the Municipal Human Rights Committee, we toured the Drinking Water Treatment Plants and the wetlands: Laguna del Miedo and La Represa, performing in situ measurement of physiochemical parameters of the water. #HumanRights #PotableWater”

The municipality of Yondó (in the department of Antioquia) is situated across the Magdalena River from the municipality of Barrancabermeja (in the department of Santander).

The river flows northward past Yondó and Barrancabermeja impacting multiple interconnected wetlands, including the Ciénaga San Silvestre that is monitored by Yuli Velázquez and the Federation of Artisanal Fishermen of Santander (FEDEPESAN).

Ecopetrol discharges and spills

In July 2019, RCN Radio reported: “Jhosep Molina, councillor of the municipality of Yondó – Antioquia, described the discharges that Ecopetrol has been making into the Magdalena River for almost 34 years as a savage practice against nature and human beings. According to [Molina], through a 36-inch pipe, water contaminated with chemicals is poured into the Magdalena River 24 hours a day and sometimes, as happened on Tuesday [July 30], oil waste is also dumped.”

Furthermore, Óscar Sampayo, a political scientist from the University of Antioquia and a member of the Yariguíes Regional Corporation-Group of Social, Extractive and Environmental Studies of Magdalena Medio (CRY-GEAM), has noted: “In 2020 alone, we found that close to 200 barrels were spilled due to failures from Ecopetrol in oil concessions in the municipalities of Puerto Wilches, Yondó, Barrancabermeja, and Carmen Chucurí.”

The Banking on Climate Chaos report documents that the Toronto-based Scotiabank is a top financier of Ecopetrol, providing USD $3.9 billion in financing since 2018.

Bronwen Tucker of Oil Change International also shared on a PBI-Canada organized webinar this slide showing that Ecopetrol has been a top recipient of financing from Export Development Canada, the Ottawa-based export credit agency wholly owned by the Government of Canada, between 2012 and 2020.

Wastewater discharges

In July 2019, Vanguardia also reported: “In the municipality of Yondó, Antioquia, located 17 kilometers from Barrancabermeja, residents of the urban area expressed concern about the polluting effects, which apparently are being generated by a discharge of domestic wastewater. A citizen told Vanguardia that the situation is occurring in the El Paraíso neighborhood, at the entrance to Yondó.”

The news article quotes a resident who says: “The public utility company installed a pipe, through which the sewage is evacuated. Dumping occurs four times a day. It’s producing a significant environmental problem. It generates bad odors, contaminates the water of the creek and exposes the community to diseases.”

In November 2021, Radio Nacional de Colombia reported: “Along the banks of the Magdalena River, only 48 of the 130 towns have a WWTP [waste water treatment plant]. This indicates that 63% of the municipalities located on the river lack wastewater treatment. This further aggravates the recovery of the Magdalena.”

River in “critical condition”

Biologist Jhon Mario Flórez has commented: “We are in critical condition, if we compare it to a patient we could say that we are in intensive care. Today we can see a river that is in serious condition, we have to make visible the real situation of the river.”

The Magdalena River provides drinking water to 38 million people. The linked San Silvestre wetland provides water for 300,000 people in Barrancabermeja.

We continue to follow this situation.

Photo: UN Special Rapporteur on the right to water Pedro Arrojo-Agudo meets with CREDHOS, FEDEPESAN, and PBI-Colombia, October 2022.

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