The Canal del Dique, Columbia, has a more than 400 year history, a large part of which saw it being impassable. In a new effort to revitalise the regional economy, as well as reduce regional flooding risks to more than 1.5 million people, the Columbian Government called in Dutch water experts, Royal HaskoningDHV and Deltares, to develop plans to reconstruct the canal. The project is set to be delivered by 2017.
The Canal del Dique connects Cartagena Bay to the Magdalena Rive, in Columbia. The canal, which was first dug in 1582, extended for 118 kilometres In the intervening centuries. However, the canal met with mixed fortunes; initially falling into disrepair, before new life was breathed into the project in 1650 when it was rebuilt. By the end of the 18th century, however, the canal became impassable. The 20th century saw a number of efforts to revitalise the canal; yet sedimentation of the Magdalena River has continued to negatively affect the passability of the canal as well as affecting regional flooding patterns.
In a bid to improve regional economic prosperity, as well as reduce the risk of flooding in the region – in 2010 La Niña floods killed over 174 people and left thousands homeless – the Government of Columbia drew up plans to revitalise the Canal del Dique.
To deliver the project, Royal HaskoningDHV, Dutch knowledge institute Deltares and local construction firm Gómez Cajiao were hired by the Government to reconstruct the canal. Royal HaskoningDHV led studies and developed a re-design of the canal, which includes the restructuring of dikes, new locks and marsh improvements.
Through the improvements the local economy will be stimulated by allowing ships to move freely through the canal, as well as limit the future risks of sediment impeding passage. The shipping route is extremely important for the well-being of the local economy, and ships using the canal route will now see locks and regulating installations, which is a first for Colombia", comments Eric Brasser, Senior Project Manager at Royal HaskoningDHV.
As part of the project, which is currently scheduled to be completed in 2017, he engineering and consulting firm also worked to restore and preserve ecological areas that surround the canal – which cuts through marshes and wetlands. The scheme also creates a number of barriers that are designed to better control water resources in the area, including reducing the risk of flooding for more than 1.5 million people.
“Our ultimate objective on the project is to reduce flooding in the area. We were faced with some significant challenges including poor seismic and soil conditions, as well as a short time schedule due to the importance of having this project up and running to improve flood resilience", remarks Brasser.