Biologists and consultants of the project, Environmental Public Establishment of Cartagena, CARDIQUE and IDRC leaders as well as representatives of the public, academic, tourist, industrial, commercial, community and NGO sectors participated in the socialization of Basic Cartagena. Photo: Róbinson Henao.
• Sediment levels from the Dique Canal (Colombian Caribbean) will rise between 164 and 260 percent by 2020, thus increasing water pollution and affecting the bay.• That is one of the results of the Basic Cartagena research project, which is directed by Juan Darío Restrepo Ángel along with the cooperation of The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), The Regional Autonomous Dique Canal Corporation (CARDIQUE, by its acronym is Spanish), the Hernán Echavarría Olózaga Foundation, Universidad de Cartagena and Universidad de Los Andes.
Two of the achievements obtained by the partners and researchers of the Basic Cartagena Project, which seeks to generate the tools for the comprehensive management of the water resources on the Cartagena coast, were to point out the main effects of water pollution on fishing, tourism and the health of the Cartagena Bay neighboring residents, and to come to an agreement among social actors to mitigate this phenomenon in the area.
IDRC, a Canadian corporation, the Hernán Echavarría Olózaga Foundation, CARDIQUE, Universidad EAFIT, Universidad de Los Andes and Universidad de Cartagena joined forces to create the Basic Cartagena project in order to reduce pollution risks in that specific part of the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
The results of the research project, as well as the community and intersectoral work carried out as part of this initiative, were presented last June at the Universidad de Cartagena in the capital of the department of Bolívar (Colombia). EAFIT researcher, Juan Darío Restrepo Ángel, and Marko Tosic, director and manager of the Basic Cartagena project, explained the environmental status of the bay with the support of Andrea Luna, a faculty member of the Universidad Pontificia Javeriana.
"The Cartagena Bay receives much of Colombia’s pollution and environmental issues drained by the Magdalena River. Approximately 10 percent of all this pollution enters through the Dique Canal and into the bay," says the researcher Restrepo Ángel, Director of the PhD in Earth Sciences at Universidad EAFIT.
Professor Restrepo Ángel explains that the Magdalena River basin is home to 80% of the nation's population, where 85 percent of Colombia's gross domestic product and 90 percent of the nation's hydroelectric power are produced.
There is also gas and oil extraction, mining, and other human activities whose waste flows down the river and into the bay through the canal, carrying lead, tin, zinc and other elements with it. The impact of this type of waste on public health and fishery resources is evident even in the Barbacoas Bay and the Rosario Islands where the coral reefs, according to researchers, have died by 70 percent in the last half century.
This information is supported by Marko Tosic. According to him, "the bay has major problems caused by sediments from the canal. If those levels increase between 164 and 260 percent by 2020 (as noted in the study conducted by Basic Cartagena), we can expect an increase of the identified impacts on the ecosystem and tourism, as they also affect the aesthetics of the region."
The Cartagena Bay needed a scientific diagnosis, a status report that would facilitate statistical conclusions about the environmental situation of the waters and sediments, using both international standards and elaborated scientific protocols.
The previous statement is Dr. Restrepo’s opinion who values this work as unique in Colombia. In such research, they have monitored 20 physicochemical variables in sediments and sea and river waters for three years to establish the status of the Cartagena Bay and the pollution alarm levels. They also connected these realities to the social problems derived from the impacts on the communities whose livelihoods depend on the bay and its waters.
"At EAFIT we have close to 25 years of experience on marine science, coastal erosion and oceanography work," says the researcher. "We are a leading group on environmental issues, erosion and sediments in the Magdalena River and we have worked with the Argos Group on the problems the Dique Canal causes on the bay and the coral reefs. We already have some experience working hard in the Caribbean region."
This expertise has allowed these faculty members to coordinate this interdisciplinary project to determine the actual status of the water pollution and the incidence that industry and household pollutants have on the bay.
The initiative completed its first chapter with what Marko Tosic describes as "the socialization of results to inform decision makers about the environmental status," which was also done with the idea of creating alliances among the different stakeholders in the area to develop a sense of relevance and to truly collaborate on solutions to solve this multifactorial problem.
One of the main purposes, explains Professor Restrepo Ángel, is to create an environmental governance committee to start structuring a model for the management of the bay as the first action to perform in the second stage of the project called Resilient Cartagena. He adds that in order to achieve this and to structure an early warning system for water pollution, similar to Siata (www.siata.gov.co) in Medellin, the collaboration of all stakeholders is required.
Alejandro Gómez Valencia Journalist - EAFIT Information and Press Phone: 574 2619500 Ext. 9931 Email: email@example.com