Communities affected by Hidroituango dam in Colombia file complaint at IDB
Photo: Agencia Prensa Rural.
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5 June 2018
In the midst of the humanitarian crisis caused by the Hidroituango dam project in the Cauca river basin, local communities request that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)’s accountability mechanism investigate whether the financial entity violated its environmental and social standards when investing in the project.
Washington, D.C. Communities affected by the construction of the Hidroituango dam in Antioquia, Colombia, filed a complaint with the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (MICI) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) at its Washington, DC headquarters today. The complaint requests that this accountability office investigate whether the IDB, through both its public and private lending arms, violated its own social and environmental standards when it invested in the project.
Through the complaint, the affected communities, represented by Movimiento Ríos Vivos Antioquia, highlight that the bank did not follow its policies that investment projects must be sustainable, participatory and respectful of national legislation in the case of HidroItuango. There was no adequate environmental impact assessment, communities did not have access to participation or information, and the project occurs in a context of human rights violations and disproportionate use of force. It has also endangered the lives of thousands of people, who have had to be evacuated ad hoc due to the dam crisis. This contradicts the social and environmental standards required of IDB investments.
The hydroelectric plant will be the largest in Colombia, with a 49 mile (79 km) reservoir that will flood a surface of 11,120 acres (4,500 hectares). The IDB Group has financed the project through various types of investment. In 2012, it approved a $2 million in technical cooperation for the Colombian State and in 2016, $550 million in direct investments to the company in charge of the project, Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM). In addition, the IDB manages a $1 billion loan package for the project, with funds from multiple institutional investors, including banks in Europe (KfW IPEX (Germany), BNP Paribas (France), BBVA y Banco Santander (Spain)), Asia (ICBC (China), Sumitomo Mitsui (Japan)), and Canada (CDPQ).
The MICI responds to complaints from individuals and communities affected by IDB-financed development projects. The communities settled in the Cauca river basin and its tributaries that are affected by Hidroituango, are accompanied in the complaint process by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) and International Accountability Project (IAP).
The claim comes amid a humanitarian crisis in the dam construction area and a wave of increasing violence against people who are defending their territory and water and oppose the project. What began on April 28 with the obstruction of one of the dam's tunnels has resulted in landslides, floods, and thousands of people displaced from their homes.
All this has exposed the inadequate evaluation of project impacts and the poor environmental regulation under which the project was authorized on every front. The state of emergency in the area is still in effect, and neither the Colombian government or the company has ruled out the risk of the dam collapsing.
The members of Movimiento Ríos Vivos have suffered multiple threats, intimidations, and rights violations. Between May 2 and 8, two of its members were killed. In addition, the region where the dam is located has been affected by historical violence and armed conflict.