Poligrow Colombia Ltda., Ordered to Suspend Operations due to Presumed Environmental Infractions

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Colombian environmental authority, CORMACARENA (Corporación para el Desarrollo Sostenible del Área de Manejo Especial la Macarena), has ordered oil palm company Poligrow Colombia Ltda (Poligrow) to suspend operations due to alleged environmental infractions, and has initiated a sanctioning process against it.

Operating out of Mapiripán, Meta Colombia, Poligrow is expected to suspend specific activities including: dumping industrial waste waters into local forests and natural palm groves (morichales), impeding natural water flow by means of a cement dike without permit, disposing oil palm crop stalks directly onto the soil, using water from Macondo Spout for industrial use, and dumping leachates from the company’s compost area. The suspension is for six months or until the violations are resolved.

Colombian civil society and local residents of Mapiripán have criticized the company for damaging forests and delicate ecosystems. In its review of Poligrow’s operations, CORMACARENA found that among the presumed environmental infractions is damage to local forests (bosques de galeria) and morichales.

The forests of Mapiripán, Meta and morichales are integral to natural water systems in the plains region where Poligrow operates. Rural and Indigenous communities depend on both, as do an array of plant and wildlife.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) applauds CORMACARENA for acting in response to civil society concerns, and for helping to protect Colombia’s forests from destructive palm oil operations.

“The communities and lands affected by Poligrow will only be protected if governments and consumer markets demand oil palm companies comply with the law,” said EIA’s Executive Director Sascha von Bismarck. “EIA welcomes actions by CORMACARENA, but continued oversight of compliance and the full attention of the Colombian Ministry of Environment is necessary to ensure the company suspends operations, and resolves the root causes of the listed infractions.”

On June 14, 2016 CORMACARENA issued a resolution listing its observations and charges against Poligrow, which include:

• Using water for domestic and industrial purposes–for the company’s oil palm extraction plant–without the proper permits (concessions).

• Building a cement dike without the proper permit, and related and evidenced damage to a morichal.

• Disposing of industrial waste water from the oil palm extraction plant and disposing of leachates from compost into a local forest and morichal, without the proper permits.

• Damaging natural resources as evidenced by damage to local forests and morichales.

• Damaging natural resources, local forests, morichales, soil, and subterranean water.

In its resolution, CORMACARENA stated that there is an obligation by Poligrow to “comply with all obligations related to the practice of conserving water, protected forests and soil in accordance with current norms, of which the company Poligrow Colombia Ltda. is not complying, and that its activities distance it from an example of social environmental responsibility.”

EIA’s video Between Water and Oil, explores the effects of Poligrow operations on communities in Mapiripán, Meta Colombia and features footage of morichales in the area.