The Bogotá river isn’t dead. Despite decades of being declared a liquid corpse, communities from its highland sources to the dramatic Tequendama Falls are taking action to care for this polluted body of water.
For centuries, the river has been the life source and energy for inhabitants of Bogota’s flat savannah. The Indigenous Muiscas worked with water to create navigation channels and raised bed agriculture. Modern irrigation systems siphon the flow to farmers for their crops. And the nation’s first hydropower plant tapped the river to generate electricity that lit up Colombia’s growing capital city at the start of modernity.
Everyone is connected to the river. But media images that focus only on lethal contamination and water treatment infrastructure risk disconnecting Bogotá’s inhabitants from their river, turning it into a lost cause. We want to shift the narrative and tell different stories about this river, focusing on the people that care for it.
In a collaboration between the entre—ríos collective and the River Commons project of Wageningen University, we followed the Bogotá River from its source in the Guacheneque highlands to the cloud forest of the Tequendama Falls region in Cundinamarca.
By walking the river and listening closely to communities over the course of a week, we connected with grassroots water management and wetland restoration groups, environmental education, and art projects. In the confluences of different practices of care, this polluted river comes back to life.
We encountered a river network woven through water and land, in the biodiversity that grows in this amphibious ecosystem, and in the community relationships that make possible its restoration, rehabilitation, and conservation.
by Lisa Blackmore, entre—ríos, University of Essex; Laura Giraldo-Martínez, PhD researcher River Commons project Wageningen University; Diego Piñeros García, visual artist; Juliana Steiner, curator.
Country and location of the photo story: Bogotá River, Cundinamarca Department, Colombia.