Rios Vivos

Magdalena River

The Magdalena River is Colombia’s principal river. It stretches from the Andean Cordilleras Central and Oriental in the south to the Caribbean Sea in the north, and runs up the western portion of Colombia for almost 1000 miles. The Magdalena is the fifth-largest river basin in South America and it is an extremely fertile river valley that supports many crops including coffee, corn, plantains, manioc and cacao.

Ecosystems and Biodiversity

The river flows from the Andes to the Caribbean and is home to many diverse ecosystems including forest, mountains, valleys, wetlands, and ocean. This river supports 2,735 species of animals, many of which are endemic to the region. This includes the Grey-legged Night Monkey (Aotus griseimembra) as well as many species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and fish.

People and Fisheries

Over 120,000 inhabitants of the region that have built their lives around fishing and agriculture, the principal driving forces of the local economy. Fisheries generate 62 thousand million tons of fish annually, which are a main source of protein for many communities. 

The Magdalena River
The Magdalena River
The Nature Conservancy/Cormagdalena

The Master Plan

In 2009, the Colombian and Chinese governments signed an agreement to develop a Master Plan (Plan Maestro) for the development of the Magdalena River. These plans propose various ways to exploit the river, including building 11 to 15 more dams. Currently the Magdalena River has two dams, the Betania Dam and the Quimbo Dam, both of which have impacted local ecosystems and communities. The future dams would have major negative impacts across the board: communities, wildlife species, fisheries, and the Colombian economy would all suffer. 103 bird species, 13 reptile species, and three mammal species are already in danger of extinction and are located in the 842 hectares of riparian forest that would be flooded by this plan. Colombia currently produces sufficient energy for the country, and 70% of this energy already comes from hydroelectric dams. As people have become more aware of these plans, they’ve mobilized to ensure that the Master Plan does not go into effect.