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Buried Under This Coal

Nicoló Filippo Rosso | Colombia

June 13th; 2016. LA GUAJIRA; COLOMBIA. Rancheria Orrockoc- Municipality of Manaure - A child sits in front of a well that his community has dug to get water. The water that people get through their rudimental wells is most of the time contaminated and salty. The dam over the Rancheria River has affected communities living far away from its flow since the aquiphere feeding their wells has become dryer and dryer.

The deserts of La Guajira peninsula in northern Colombia are home to the country’s largest indigenous group, the Wayuu. They are also the site of the world’s largest open-pit coal mine, Cerrejon.

La Guajira has always been parched, but the Wayuu’s semi-nomadic lifestyle and their traditional techniques for drilling wells and water reservoirs have ensured their survival for centuries.

Since the mine opened in the 1980s, it has diverted more than 20 rivers and streams to supply the coal operation.

A railway connects the mine with the Port of Bolivar, where the coal is loaded for export. Wayuu have to adapt to the changing seasons in a divided territory, and the season of drought lasts longer. Cerrejon consumes 34.9 million liters of water per day, while for the Wayuu access to water is evaporating.

Wayuu are facing by malnutrition, respiratory diseases and shockingly high rates of premature death. Births are often not registered, making difficult to know the number of people exposed topoverty and environmental degradation in the most remote areas.

I heard about the humanitarian crisis affecting the Wayuu while I was living in Bogotá, in 2015. National chronicles from the newspaper El Espectador were denouncing the death of thousands of children and claiming the State and the giant of coal Cerrejon were responsible for it, leaving Wayuu displaced where their history dates back 3,000 years with little means to survive.

I travelled first to La Guajira in June, 2015 when the Wayuu where facing a severe droughts since more then four years and I returned several times during 2016.

The extraction industry has shaped the landscape, impeding the perspective of  an agricultural future in the peninsula and the spreading corruption teared apart the social fabric of Wayuu communities.

The largest market for Colombian coal is Europe, which is not required to report its origin. Most consumers don’t know where their coal comes from and under what condition it was extracted.

Buried under this coal is the story of a deadly resource conflict in La Guajira that threatens the survival of the Wayuu and this story can contribute to a deeper discussion about the humanitarian consequences of cheap fossil fuel, and its true costs.

I heard about the humanitarian crisis affecting the Wayuu while I was living in Bogotá, in 2015. National chronicles from the newspaper El Espectador were denouncing the death of thousands of children and claiming the State and the giant of coal Cerrejon were responsible for it, leaving Wayuu displaced where their history dates back 3,000 years with little means to survive.

I travelled first to La Guajira in June, 2015 when the Wayuu where facing a severe droughts since more then four years and I returned several times during 2016.

The extraction industry has shaped the landscape, impeding the perspective of  an agricultural future in the peninsula and the spreading corruption teared apart the social fabric of Wayuu communities.

The largest market for Colombian coal is Europe, which is not required to report its origin. Most consumers don’t know where their coal comes from and under what condition it was extracted.

Buried under this coal is the story of a deadly resource conflict in La Guajira that threatens the survival of the Wayuu and this story can contribute to a deeper discussion about the humanitarian consequences of cheap fossil fuel, and its true costs.

Nicoló Filippo Rosso

www.nicolofilipporosso.com

nico.filipporosso@gmail.com

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