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At first sight the small town of La Playa in the department of Santander in Colombia seems gripped by a minor boom. Its population has rocketed while new residential buildings, shops and small bars blaring out loud music have sprung up all over town.
Yet the growth does nothing to mask the pervading atmosphere of desperation and frustration among its long-term residents, brought on by living with the uncertainty of whether there will even be a town in the future. The new buildings and bars cater to the new residents — construction workers from all over the country who have flooded the community to work on the Hidrosogamoso hydro-electric dam.
According to the people of La Playa, after three years of construction work the dam has already decimated the traditional local economy, wrecked the eco-system and disrupted the social and cultural life of the community.
When finished, the m high dam on the river Sogamoso will hold back a reservoir covering 7, hectares. Construction is currently underway on a host of new projects, including several controversial mega-dams that have faced a backlash from affected communities.
In the department of Huila, construction of the El Quimbo dam has also been met with popular resistance and in January this year protesters shut down construction by blockading the site in protest against its impact on local communities and the environment. The controversial scheme allows polluters in industrialized countries to purchase carbon credits from emissions reduction projects in the developing world in order to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets.