May 19, 2024
Infrastructure

Responsible Social Leaders Join Hidroituango Stability-Study Forum

Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced August 15 that local leaders from communities around Puerto Valdivia, Antioquia are now participating in a broad government/citizen/EPM expert panel examining possible stability issues with the main rock massif adjacent to the giant Hidroituango hydroelectric dam in Antioquia.

The decision to include the “MEDAV” (Mesa de Dialogos y Acuerdos-Afectados por Hidroituango, Valdivia) leadership group came following an August 10 letter from MEDAV to a Colombian court judge charged with overseeing the multiparty panel now studying the Hidroituango stability issue.

In its letter, the MEDAV group pointed out to the judge that the left-wing political organization “Rios Vivos” – a current member of the multi-party study panel — fails to represent the affected Valdivia community and “hasn’t made any positive contribution to solving the problems generated” by the May 2018 collapse of a Hidroituango diversion tunnel.

That tunnel collapse last year triggered a flood that temporarily forced evacuation of many homes in Valdivia downstream of the dam.

“Rios Vivos” has fought the Hidroituango hydroelectric project since its inception — and publicly calls for the dam’s destruction now, no matter whether it would operate safely, and no matter that such a destruction would cost Antioquia untold billions of dollars in future public revenue via the production of zero-emissions, clean electricity for all Colombian citizens.

Instead, Rios Vivos “has dedicated itself to creating panic and delaying the process of bringing about positive solutions for our community,” according to MEDAV.

Since the Hidroituango dam has now been completed, and since the Cauca River is now safely flowing over the dam’s engineered spillway, Valdivia residents are gradually returning to homes previously evacuated.

“Persons and families that suffered from the [sudden, temporary flooding that resulted from the diversion tunnel collapse in May 2018] don’t consider themselves ‘victims’ of Hidroituango, but rather ‘temporary casualties’ affected by the [temporary flooding] — and we value the efforts by EPM to repair all the damages caused,” according to the MEDAV letter.

“Contrary to what ‘Rios Vivos’ claims, the communities around Puerto Valdivia have built relations of trust with EPM, because this company has kept us informed about the measures they have taken to repair the damages and to minimize the risks of the project. In addition, EPM has complied with the commitments they have assumed to help those affected,” the letter concludes.

In an August 15 press bulletin, EPM added that the technical panel has now met six times, with a seventh meeting scheduled August 28 and a site visit scheduled for September 2-3.

The panel eventually aims to produce a technical study analyzing the stability of the rock massif adjacent to the dam — in order to decide whether the Hidroituango project should continue to move forward.

The US$5 billion Hidroituango project is scheduled to start producing power in late 2021, then reach its full 2.4-gigawatts capacity in 2024 — providing 17% of the entire Colombian electric power output.

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