Walking Along Rivers, Feeling Through Infrastructures

“Walking Along Rivers, Feeling Through Infrastructures” is a blog written by Laura Betancur Alarcón (Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems-IRI THESys at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin) and Ana María Arbeláez-Trujillo (Water Resources Management Group at Wageningen University and Research), published by Engagement, the anthropology and environment society.

On her way to the La Miel River banks, Isaura walks across the mountain. Lying down as tree steam, she sees the 6-kilometer pipe that transports the river waters to the powerhouse of the hydroelectric plant. She can’t swim in the river anymore: a large tube carries a large part of its water, diminishing its flow. Also on foot but in the riverbanks of a dry forest valley, Pedro looks for a possible port to embark on the “piece of river” they have left. It is a 14-kilometer stretch of the Magdalena River left between two large dams. While he searches, the river expands and retracts with the rhythms of the energy power plants. Isaura and Pedro seek the rivers’ current in territories fragmented by infrastructure.  Following their footsteps, we travel along the banks and valleys of two rivers in the Colombian Andes. Ana walks with Isaura through the upper part of the La Miel River in the town of Bolivia, department of Caldas. The journey takes place around the influence area of the run-of-the-river hydroelectric project ‘El Edén’ -built in 2013- which partially diverted the river’s waters. Laura walks with Pedro along the upper Magdalena River, where the Betania Dam (1987) and the El Quimbo Dam (2015) were built in the department of Huila.  Large physical transformations caused by hydropower on rivers have been the focus of academic inquiries. But what about those daily experiences in the territories inhabited by ribereños and campesinos? How do they feel about those transformations?

Tiny pieces of water -in the form of fog- cover the mountains in the East of Caldas and linger over the landscape for a few hours. Photo by Ana María Arbeláez-Trujillo.

Check out the full text here.

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