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Putting a community, and its land, underwater

Sept 23--Peasants are angry about being pushed off their land for a hydroelectric project whose energy might not even go to Colombians.

23 de septiembre de 2009

As the muddy waters of the Magdalena River meander south of the sweltering city of Neiva, its banks give way to some of the most fertile land in the country.

Crops of cocoa, coffee, maize, plantains, yucca and tobacco creep up hillsides.

If the peasants have their way, they will continue to cultivate their land, tend to their cattle and live in their tightly knit communities as have generations before them.

If the government and the Colombian arm of Spanish energy giant Endesa have their way, more than 21,000 acres of land will be flooded in several years time and turbines will churn out 2,216 gigawatt-hours annually through a dam that will be blessed, cursed and known as El Quimbo.

The dam, constructed on the country's largest river by Colombian subsidiary Emgesa, would create a reservoir 34 miles in length, displacing some 1,500 inhabitants and uprooting eight cottage industries and various jobs in the local economy.

The project is part of a plan to encourage international investment in the country and has been sold as part of a national plan for energy security, but it is unclear how many of El Quimbo’s kilowatts will stay in Colombia.
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