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Arroyo Bruno: A stream in La Guajira that can be felt in Europe | 6AM Today by Today

If you look closely at the map La Guajira You will understand that in that Caribbean department there are not many rivers and that a good part of its territory is semi-desert. Water has been a scarce commodity there, but the situation worsens every day as a result of the planetary climate crisis that raises temperatures and makes both dry and rainy seasons more extreme. These circumstances explain the importance that the case of this water source has had, whose fate depends on a tutela action that the Colombian justice must resolve.

The Duke government did not manage to intervene in this lawsuit that is emblematic both for the industry and for environmentalists and now that “pork rind” will be inherited by the incoming government that has promised to “decarbonize” the national economy, but needs those resources precisely when the price of the mineral reaches historical prices. At stake for the coal industry are the conditions it needs for its exploitations previously agreed with the State and, for several environmental activists and Human rightsit is about seeing the capacity of the State to prevent these exploitations from being carried out in any way.

For many Wayúu families, it is about something simpler: their fear of dying of hunger and thirst. That says Aura Robles, a Wayúu leader from Paraderoone of the two communities that “entitled” the cerrejon company. Mrs. Robles speaks with the conviction of someone who, as a child, says that she received from her ancestors the story of a dream of hers that made her the guardian of her territory. As she remembers that time, she cannot hold back her tears, listing oaks, snails, guaymaros, fish and fruits. She denies that her intention is to obtain resources from the company because, she underlines, her money would not buy the water that future generations might lack. Listen to her testimony here.

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Aura Robles / Snail Radio

The CAJAR Lawyers Collective represents two Wayúu clans, including Doña Aura’s. The attorney Rosa Mateus has been at the forefront of the case and hopes to get the Constitutional court resolve a precautionary measure in favor of the Bruno stream and that it be returned to its previous channel, while studies are carried out to determine the possible effects of exploitation near it and establish what would happen if the mining pit expands. The precautionary measures that she expects should, according to her, take into account the effects of the climate crisis in such a complex area. Mateus considers that the Duque government has not been an impartial arbiter in this case, but rather has been captured by the industry. As proof of this, she argues that government decisions have been made based on reports made by the company itself.

According to that NGO, the Bruno It has not been the only water source affected and ensures that others have dried up (something that the company denies). He explains that the justice ordered the creation of an inter-institutional table to resolve the uncertainties, evaluate the effects and monitor the compensation to the plaintiffs. In this instance, mostly made up of official entities, Cerrejón also sits. This committee, whose spokesperson has been the Ministry of Environment, seems inclined to say that everything is resolved or to avoid substantive pronouncements. Caracol Radio wanted to know the diagnosis and the assessments of its officials, but received no response.

What is at stake in this case is the capacity of the State to impose higher environmental standards on the company. If it does, it could face a lawsuit in international courts on the grounds of a possible breach of investment protection agreements. Despite this, activists consider that there are unresolved environmental, cultural, social and health impacts. For that reason, they have even taken their cause to Europe seeking, for example, that countries like Germany don’t buy their coal. Achieving such a goal seems difficult because, amid geopolitical tension with Russia, their governments are desperately seeking other energy sources and have postponed their goals of adopting cleaner electricity technologies. Listen to the appraisals of the Doctor Weildler Guerra Curvelo, anthropologist and former governor of La Guajira, who is a professor at the Universidad del Norte

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Professor War / Caracol Radio

There are no defined deadlines for the Constitutional Court to pronounce a sentence. That court requested concepts from dozens of entities and experts who continue to deliver their arguments. One of these institutions is the department’s environmental authority, which seems to play a balancing act between the interests of some communities that defend their rights and a company on whose activities almost half of the region’s economy depends. Listen to Samuel Lanao, director of Corpoguajira.

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years ago cerrejon wanted to divert the Rancheria River to expand their mining operations without affecting that channel. The idea was rejected by the Guajira population, who did not want to risk their largest water source. Since coal prices were low at that time, the company did not insist on this colossal work that did not seem profitable. However, it later obtained authorization to divert the Bruno stream, a tributary that feeds the Ranchería. In doing so, the relationship with some Wayúu communities fractured and gave way to a lawsuit. The company has defended the environmental benefits generated by the diversion process, since it assures that the old channel has become a forest and the surroundings of the new route are also a refuge for hundreds of species of fauna and flora, some of them in Danger of Extinction. The Professor Johny Pérez Montiel of the University of La Guajira He has heard these arguments several times, but considers that they hide inaccuracies. Pérez, along with other academics, has reviewed the company’s studies that support the diversion and says that the true effects of this intervention on nature remain to be seen.

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For the company, however, the water was not lost. It says Luis Francisco Madriñán, environmental manager of Cerrejón, while explaining that the modification of the channel seeks to prevent the stream from going to the mining pit, affecting the operation and eventually losing its waters, especially in the event of extreme rains. He argues that there are dry seasons where – before and now – the stream loses surface water, but flows through its aquifer. It has a seasonal behavior, he assures, and remembers that the water runs during the short rainy seasons in La Guajira. To those who affirm that there was a forest in the current course of the Bruno stream, Madriñán replies that there is evidence that the area was, above all, a hacienda with pastures and cattle and that is why its current state should be considered a gain. Listen here to the spokesperson for the Cerrejón company.

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Luis Francisco Madriñán, environmental manager of Cerrejón / Caracol Radio

The company reports the appearance of fauna species in that recovered area. It claims to have planted 12,000 trees, but now the inventory totals 15,600, which would prove the capacity of the forest itself to regenerate. There are 44 species, 10 of them closed and 4 in danger of extinction. In his concept, the river sows new seeds.

The author of this journalistic work was able to travel along the banks of the bruno creek now converted into an environmental restoration zone. In some sections he observed running water, in others there is stagnant water and -in some more- water sprouts from the aquifer. Cerrejón assures that under the old channel there will be no exploitation and that in the new layout the IDEAM and the state geological service make frequent measurements. Faced with those who regret not being able to enter the creek, he says that this is an area in recovery and that it is only necessary to schedule a visit. That version supports it Carmen Jiménez Pushaina, from the Wayúu community of Campo Herrera.

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Like Carmen’s, other communities wanted to avoid the dispute in court and negotiated with the mining company. Some clans seem to have applied that saying that “a bad settlement is better than a good fight.” Doña Lorenza Pérez – traditional authority of La Horqueta – acknowledges that she obtained some 80 hectares for her people after an arduous negotiation with the company. They went from fighting with the company to being one of its suppliers of trees for the environmental restoration of the region. They do this using a nursery where they reproduce native species that will later be planted on reclaimed land once the coal mining is over. The members of this clan acknowledge having found in reforestation a reason for satisfaction and a source of income, but they know that none of this will be enough to compensate for the impacts caused by mining exploitation. Listen to José Manuel Vergara, member of the community of La Horqueta.

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The communities that negotiate with the industry do not do so to forget about the environmental, social or cultural impacts. They understand that these impacts must be mitigated and compensated. Making this happen under fair conditions is what the State should guarantee, which, also here, looks weak or absent.

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