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June 9, 2023 – After almost 20 years of struggle, justice has finally arrived for the 140 communities of the Dulcepamba River basin. On Tuesday, May 30, The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition (MAATE) reversed the water use authorization granted to the private hydroelectric company Hidrotambo S.A. of Ecuador.

This is the first time in Ecuador’s history that the government has withdrawn the water use authorization granted to an operating hydroelectric plant.

The resolution for reversal notest the Hidrotambo company’s failure to comply with administrative resolution No. 2018-008 issued by the Water Authority in 2019 including producing required studies and redesigns, reconstructing the catchment, conductivity, flow regulation and catchment of the dam and installing a hydrometric station. In addition, the resolution cites the finding by the National Energy Control Center (CENACE) that the hydroelectric plant did not respect the conditions of the water authorization by continuing to use the water resource in the months of August, September, and October when it was not authorized to capture even a single drop of water, and that it did not respect the required minimum ecological flow of 1.46 cubic meters per second.

For all these non-compliances, in accordance with the provisions of the Organic Law on Water Resources, Uses and Use of Water, the MAATE revoked the authorization previously granted to the Hydrotambo Company to use the surface waters of the Dulcepamba River for hydroelectricity activities.

The resolution states that the flows previously authorized to the hydroelectric company will now be available for higher priority users, such as the peasant and Indigenous communities of the Dulcepamba River basin, and for allocation for human consumption, animal watering, and irrigation that sustains food sovereignty.

Justice has finally come to the Dulcepamba River and the communities living in its basin after 20 years of struggle, having suffered multiple and systematic violations of rights due to the government’s inaction and the abuses of the hydroelectric company.

For the past eight years, every rainy season, the community of San Pablo de Amalí has lived in permanent danger due to the diversion of the river and the release of excess water and debris in the direction of the community. In 2019, the government ordered the company to redesign its catchment to avoid a repetition of the devastating erosions and floods that San Pablo de Amalí has suffered almost every year since 2015. These disasters have caused the death of two women and a child and have wiped out more than a dozen homes and 33 family farms; they have also caused the devastation of the only road that connects the community of San Pablo de Amalí with the parish of San José del Tambo for six winters over the last eight years.

In the face of violations of their rights, the communities of the Dulcepamba River basin have opposed the construction and operation of the hydroelectric plant, which has been met with violence and criminalization by the government. The basin communities have filed several constitutional actions without having obtained full reparations for the violated rights. Their case is now before the Constitutional Court and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Given the impunity with which the company has acted, the reversal of Hidrotambo’s water use authorization is a historic milestone that will serve to stop the permanent threat to the communities, guarantee access to water, and allow for the restoration of the Dulcepamba River.

Human rights and environmental organizations will be vigilant in ensuring that this resolution is complied with immediately.


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