Victims of Flooding at Anchicayá Dam in Colombia Awarded US$52 Million

📸 Miyer Juana Paniagua / Human Conet

📸 Miyer Juana Paniagua / Human Conet

Empresa de Energía del Pacífico (EPSA) dumped over 30 years of accumulated sediment from the Anchicayá dam in western Colombia in July 2001, polluting the river, killing fish, destroying farmlands and mangroves. The Afro-Caribbean community downstream sued EPSA and finally won Col$203,962 million (US$52 million) in compensation in February 2024, after 20 years of court battles. 

“We welcome with joy the Constitutional Court’s decision to acknowledge a systematic breach of the compliance of dam owners and government agencies obligations as the cause of the 2001 disaster, as well as the violations of the fundamental rights to a healthy environment, water, work and food.” – Germán Ospina, attorney representing the communities.

Anchicayá Dam

The Anchicayá dam in western Colombia is a hydro-power plant that was built by EPSA in the 1970s. EPSA was privatized in the year 2000 and acquired by Unión Fenosa, a utility based in Madrid, Spain. On June 22, 2001, the company opened the flood gates of the dam and discharged approximately 500,000 cubic meters of accumulated sediment over the period of one month.

“An avalanche of mud destroyed the aquatic fauna, the people's crops, and the only navigation route we have, which is the river. We also do not have an aqueduct and sewage system. The sediment killed the fish, the river flora, and made women who work with the piangua [river cockles] sick.” – Benjamín Mosquera, El Consejo Comunitario Mayor del Río Anchicayá en Buenaventura. 

Afro-Colombian Community

The community that lives along the Anchicayá river which flows down to the Pacific port city of Buenaventura are mostly Black descendants of enslaved Africans. The region is geographically isolated from the rest of the country because of the Andes mountains, and it has been afflicted with the highest rates of poverty in Colombia.

Class Action

In 2002, the Community Council of Anchicayá filed a class action lawsuit against EPSA. Seven years later, courts ordered Unión Fenosa to pay a fine of Col$169,000 million (US$39 million) but the parent company refused and sold off EPSA instead. In subsequent years, EPSA appealed in order to overturn the compensation decision.

International Solidarity

Over the next decade, the Anchicayá communities gathered support from around the world, appealing to Colombia’s Consejo de Estado and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with the help of groups like the Earth Law Center, International Rivers, Lawyers Without Borders Canada and Réseau International des Droits Humains.


In February 2024 the Colombian Constitutional Court ordered that the victims of flooding be paid Col$203,962 million (US$52 million) in compensation. EPSA was told to pay 70 percent of the fine and the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Valle del Cauca and the Ministry of Environment were told to pay 15 percent each.

📸 Miyer Juana Paniagua / Human Conet

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