Rivers on the Radar in Latin America

International Day of Action For Rivers Across Latin America

Protest at site of Hidrosogamoso on Colombia's Chicamocha River
Protest at site of Hidrosogamoso on Colombia's Chicamocha River

A great variety of events took place in Latin America to celebrate the International Day of Action For Rivers, which is today the greatest global event demonstrating that rivers have friends and that we are going to defend them! Since the International Day of Action For Rivers was created in 1997, it has spread across the globe and Latin America is a great example of the "let's defend our rivers" domino effect.

In Colombia despite knowing that for protesting you can lose your life, a huge mobilization of indigenous peoples, peasants, fishing folks, students, workers, and environmental activists held actions throughout the country in defense of people's lands and rivers. More than 2,000 people defending the Magdalena River marched to protest El Quimbo Dam, and close to 4,000 people mobilized against the Pescadero-Ituango project on the Cauca River. Many peasants have already been killed because they refused to give way to this project and leave their lands, and yet resistance remains strong.

"No to Hidrosogamoso" folks chanted and sang at the camp they created by Isagen, the company behind the project, which threatens to flood the rich agricultural valley of the Chicamocha River. At seven in the evening the sit-in was violently interrupted by the arrival of the police who threw tear gas in an attempt to move the peaceful protesters.

At a National Forum on the Impact of Mines and Dams held in the Senate, supporters publicly opposed the present administration's policy of mines and dams as "locomotives to boot growth," says Juan Pablo Soler, Otros Mundos.

This year in Argentina, young people bicycled from Plaza San Martin to the town of Azara, an area that would be impacted by the construction of the Garabi Dam. So strong is the opposition in Chile against dams on the Baker and Pascua River in Patagonia that several actions took place. Community members visited the Baker River and Santiago was the scenario of a rally.

Mexico never lags behind when it comes to defending communities and rivers from destructive dam projects. The Mexican Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAPDER) held their 8th annual meeting in Chiapas, Mexico during the week of Day of Action For Rivers, followed by a press conference in Mexico City. Elsewhere in Mexico, children and their families gathered by the River Papagayo in solidarity against the construction of La Parota Dam.

In Panama: Naso and Ngabe indigenous peoples came before the mayor of the Municipality of Changuinola to lobby for a district law that would guarantee that no more dams could be built on these indigenous territories; they will soon hold a vote on this issue. Indigenous leaders from throughout Panama presented a bill to National Assembly members, calling for the "Protection of Mineral and Water Resources" in Bugle Ngabe and the surrounding communities.

I have a feeling that next year, there will be even more actions as the Latin American community rises up to defend rivers and proposes alternative ways of living and greener use of water and energy resources.

Aguas para la Vida no para la Muerte!