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PHOTO: César Martínez

Frailejones at Cumbal (Nariño)



EDITORIAL.......................... 5 NEWS.................................. 6 INTRODUCTION................... 8 “Reconciliation processes should be centered around victims” NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE Forests for Peace, reconciliation through conservation ......................12 The instrument that creates sustainable territories.......16

Water and the post-conflict ......................20 Water resources: the path to development .....................24 Water viewed from the hydrographic basin viewpoint.............................. 28 “Colombia can become an oceanic power”......................30 Water systems in figuress .............................34 Intelligent land management agreements .......................36 The urgent need to overcome design deficiencies in projects .............................38


Development agenda ........42 Waste water: the big challenge ..........................44 Water reserves: life assurances .................48 Basin regulation: obligation or sustainability instrument?.......................50 SOCIAL PERSPECTIVE The Arhuaco impetus ........52 Water + Education= Future ................................54 The water route .................56 Drinking water good investment ........................58

64 INTERNATIONAL “90% of all natural disasters are related to water” ...... 60 Water crisis: a multiple riske.....................64 Water success in Valencia..........................66

FINDETER A Management Plan for San Andrés and Providencia.......68 Waterscapes: Sustainable transportation axes ........ 70 DIRECTORY....................... 73 COLUMN........................... 74 Addiction



DIRECTOR Paola Villamarín González

GENERAL MANAGER Sandra Suárez Pérez



Alejandro Torres Parra





Natalia Perdigón Beltrán

Orlando González Galindo

EDITOR José Luis Barragán

Rodolfo Enrique Zea Navarro



Angela Delgado Yesid Castiblanco

Fabián Elias Paternina Martínez

Publicaciones Semana S.A.

PRINTING Printer Colombiana S.A. Printed in Colombia Publicado en Bogotá

Andrés Gómez Posada

Ana María Palau Alvargonzález Vice-President, Planning Diana Jimena Pereira Bonilla Planning Manager Rodrigo Lozano Suaza Coordinator, Center for Innovation and Knowledge Erika Andrea Delgado Moncayo Communications Director Claudia Salamanca Velásquez Communications Management María Eugenia Rubiano Sánchez Head of Marketing Natalia Fajardo Hernández Leader, Publications, and Issue Coordinator






Proyectos Semana S.A. Tel.: 6468400

DESIGN Claudia Arandia Sánchez Helber Guerrero Rubiano Nathalia Chacón Botero Sandra Olaya Cortés

PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR Mario Inti García Mutis

TRANSLATION Michael Sparrow


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findeterweb ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS María José Zuluaga, María Paz Uribe, Lily Torres, María de los Ángeles Char, Diana Marcela Niebles, Liliana Castillo, Ximena Sánchez, Magda Esperanza Parada, Nicolás Vila, Sergio Mosquera, Sandra López, Alba Mogollón, Patricia Virgues, Blanca Ruth Azcárate, Iván Cabrera, Jaime Alejandro Urrego, Carolina Romero, Nathalia Martínez, Liliana Castillo, Catalina Sandoval, Claudia Álvarez, Fernando Vargas, Claudia Lovera, Margit Solarte Lievano, Yuly y Cepeda San Juanelo, Mauricio López, Jenny Bonilla, María Paula Pinto y Luis Gabriel Charris.

AUTHORS OR INTERVIEWEESLUIS Rafael Pardo, Ricardo Lozano, Ómar Franco, Ernesto Guhl Nannetti, Julio Carrizosa, Luis David Prieto, Luis Germán Naranjo, Jesús Fernando Cubillos, Francisco Ocampo, Contralmirante Paulo Guevara Rodríguez, Maryluz Mejía de Pumarejo, Claudia Victoria González Hernández, Gustavo Galvis, Jéssica Bohórquez, Benedito Braga, César Augusto Ruiz Agudelo, Juan Manuel Robledo; Diana Galarza Molina, Ana María Palau, Paulo Guevara Rodríguez, Henk Ovink, Humberto Rodríguez, Vicent Manuel Sarrià I Morell y Carolina Urrutia.

©Proyectos Semana S.A./17, Colombia All rights reserved. Total or partial reproduction prohibited without Proyectos Semana S.A. authorization. Headquarters: Carrera 11 # 77A-65. PBX: 646 8400 Bogotá - Colombia.


PHOTO: Findeter


IF THE national debate focuses on how to reduce social

inequalities and ensure that the whole population can take part in making Colombia a country where there are more opportunities for everyone, without any shadow of doubt we should mention the challenges related to the coverage and quality of the drinking water and sanitation services our nation needs. Although the discussion arises among public policy decision-makers, the conversation should be centered around all members of society. Even though we have made significant progress regarding access to drinking water, we still have a long way to go. Today we talk about sustainable water systems that have the necessary resources to build the plants and networks that supply urban and rural homes, yet we also have to deal with the worst scenario: lack of water, dried-up rivers, climate change. A few months ago in Buenaventura (a town in Valle del Cauca province), while tests were being performed as part of commissioning activities at one of the waterworks where the government was improving the service, laborers were surprised to see that there was no water. The sad truth is that the problem laid not in the mud that was blocking the flow but in the fact that the source, in the wettest part of the Pacific region and one of the richest in flora, had dried up. It is because of situations like this that we need to redefine the actions that are promoted, from national right down to local level, for ensuring that everyone is connected to a drinking water system. At Findeter we consider that this is not the direct responsibility of sectors that work to consolidate sustainable development. For this reason,

Rodolfo Enrique Zea Navarro, President, Findeter

259 projects have been financed between 2010 and 2017 and the national government has been given support in the implementation of 256 additional works, according to the Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation report done by the Development Bank’s Economic Analysis Unit. In addition to a disbursement of 1.52 thousand million pesos for the sector, spread across 25 provinces, initiatives are currently in progress that will help protect water resources. One of the projects already working towards achieving this goal is Forests for Peace, which is being executed in conjunction with the Presidency of the Republic, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Supreme Council for the Post-Conflict, and provincial and local authorities. Not only does this project consist of social reconciliation processes through reforestation, it is also a commitment to preserve hydrographic basins and biodiversity. We therefore say that there is an urgent need to understand the water cycle and to work from every angle to guarantee that forests are protected, that carbon footprint compensation is provided for public and private sector emissions, and that communities are made aware of the need to use water rationally.


PHOTO: iStock

BASQUE COUNTRY SUPPORTS DEVELOPMENT IN COLOMBIA Findeter and the Basque Business Development Agency (SPRI) have signed a cooperation agreement that will provide projects that are part of the Sustainable Cities and Emblematic Cities program with technical assistance. SPRI and Findeter will invite experts on the subject to attend sessions at which they will describe the Basque sustainable urban development experience.

FINDETER WINS AWARD FOR BOOSTING CHANGE IN CITIES AND REGIONS Findeter recently took part in the Smart City World Expo Congress 2017: Empower Cities, Empower People, which was held in Barcelona and was attended by more than 17,000 visitors. The event covered issues ranging from social and infrastructure subjects to big data, democracy and security. Additionally, the Government of the State of Puebla and the Smart City Expo LATAM Congress presented Findeter with the Territorial Development Impulse award. This prize is awarded to institutions that work on projects and initiatives aimed at boosting change in cities and regions, and they consequently become reference points on the subject.

FINDETER AND KFW SIGN AGREEMENT This initiative, which is worth 11.7 million Euros, aims to reduce greenhouse gases through measures that encourage the use of public transport and traveling around on foot or by bicycle, and which reduce the need for, and the distances involved in, urban journeys. The cooperation will be for conducting feasibility studies and executing the initiative in Cali, Manizales and Pasto.

OFFSET RATE CREDITS Between August 2010 and November 2017, Findeter made offset rate disbursements throughout the country totaling 4.4 thousand million pesos in the health, transportation, drinking water and basic sanitation, education, tourism, sport and leisure, and culture sectors. Ten per cent of these funds were disbursed during 2017.

FRENCH GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES CREDIT FOR THE POST-CONFLICT The French government has announced that it intends to grant Findeter credit worth 150 million dollars through the French Development Agency to support areas prioritized by the Colombian government in the context of the post-conflict. This cooperation is part of a road map signed by Presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Emmanuel Macron in January 2017, which established that one of the principal methods for France to cooperate with Colombia in consolidating peace and sustainable development would be through budgetary support loans and credits to finance specific projects.


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COOPERATION WITH THE UNITED KINGDOM Findeter and the British Embassy have signed a memorandum of understanding for Findeter to be one of the entities that execute projects in Colombia financed by the Prosperity Fund. Findeter will receive around 52,000 million pesos of non-reimbursable funds, which will be invested in projects relating to urban and railroad development, and reinforcing institutions.


AWARD FOR THE CARIBBEAN AND SANTANDERS DIAMOND The International Society of Urban Developers and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) has announced in The Hague (Netherlands) that the 2017 ISOCARP Award for Excellence has gone to the Caribbean and Santanders Diamond project, headed by Findeter and the Metropolí Foundation. “We are proud to receive this prize from such an important international organization. We are sure that it is an initiative that can be replicated in other regions and countries”, said Findeter President Rodolfo Zea.

URBAN TRANSFORMATION COMMENCES IN PESCAÍTO NEIGHBORHOOD Findeter Planning Vice-President Ana María Palau has handed the city of Santa Marta the proposal for transforming the city’s iconic Pescaíto neighborhood. The project, which is described in the book Live Plans, aims to make the neighborhood known for the sporting, historical and cultural icon it is, through planning and by setting in motion social and urban development initiatives.


PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Alejandro Acosta

For the third consecutive year, Findeter has won the Issuer - Investor Relations award granted by the Colombian Stock Exchange, for implementing best practices in divulging information to the stock market and for its good relations with its investors.

Findeter has presented the book entitled Planning Sustainable Cities, a long-term territorial planning tool. It is of great importance to the academic community, local administrations, ministries, the NPD and society in general because it provides the necessary elements for long-term territorial planning. The document is based on greenhouse gas studies, vulnerability and risk, and urban growth in Barranquilla, Montería, Pasto, Valledupar, Villavicencio and Santa Marta.



Findeter introduced the sustainable infrastructure rediscount line with offset rate for the purpose of reactivating the national economy by financing investments relating to studies and designs, construction, refurbishment, maintenance, improvement, supervision, equipment and goods in numerous sectors. The total amount is 1,000 million pesos.


PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Andrés Camilo González


around victims" This is the view of Rafael Pardo, Supreme Counselor for the Post-Conflict, Human Rights and Security, who spoke with Pensamiento Urbano about the Forests for Peace project and its results.



T HE END of the longest in-

ternal conflict in the Western Hemisphere has left Colombia with a whole series of challenges, not least of which is restoring large expanses of land that have been subjected to deforestation in recent years. In the Forests for Peace program, a strategy that is part of the National Restoration Plan, the national government sets out actions aimed at the ecological restoration,

rehabilitation and recovery of damaged areas in these areas. In an interview with Pensamiento Urbano, Rafael Pardo, Supreme Counselor for the Post-Conflict, Human Rights and Security, maintained that Forests for Peace, a project which places victims at its center, “is conceived as a tool for coordinating ecosystem conservation, restoration and preservation actions, reconciliation processes between the



different parties in the region, and new sustainable opportunities for the communities living there”. He went on to say that three such projects had been started to date, with a further 14 envisaged by the end of 2017. According to the Ministry of the Environment, the target for 2018 is to reach a figure of 120 for the whole country.

Members of communities that benefit from the program receive training in environmental education and sustainable production practices so that they can support actions aimed at conserving Forests for Peace areas, and these people are called peace and environment guardians. They are the leaders who will foster an awareness of the environment and local ecosystems in their community, and will promote an environmental culture, together with knowledge about the exercising of rights and duties with respect to the environment and sustainable development. 90 women have so far graduated as Forests for Peace guardians, in Cesar province.









initiative was established in order to generate a sustainable management model for the different areas, one that sets out to bring together conservation of biodiversity and production projects. It will benefit organized communities, become a living monument to peace, and provide a historical memory of the end of the conflict. It also aims to

with priority given to areas that have suffered in environmental terms because of the conflict. P.U.: WHERE DO THE FUNDS FOR THIS INITIATIVE COME FROM?

Private funds are the main source of funding for the Forests for Peace program. Monies by way of compensation for loss of biodiversity and obligatory one per cent investment are in addition to voluntary contributions from the private sector. There is also financing from public funds, depending on initiatives by regional and national entities. The Ministry has no specific funds for the program, since it is simply an agent.



1’049.915 trees will be planted in the rest of 2017, benefiting around 40,000 families.

Rafael Pardo, Supreme Counselor for the Post-Conflict, Human Rights and Security.

The strategy is part of the National Restoration Plan, which sets out actions aimed at the ecological restoration, rehabilitation and recovery of damaged areas. It has an ecological, social, political, economic and ethical dimension, and seeks to bring communities together around restoration projects and help improve their living conditions. The program can be applied anywhere in the country,

PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Juan Carlos Sierra

Peace and environment guardians are leaders who will foster an awareness of local ecosystems in their community.

educate ‘peace and environment guardians’, who will follow training programs in environmental education and sustainable production practices. Projects can be implemented anywhere in the country, with priority given to areas that have suffered in environmental terms because of the conflict.


P.U.: WHAT IS THE FINANCING SCHEME FOR THE PROJECTS? R.P.: For implementing projects, finance can come wholly or partly from one or more of the following sources: voluntary contributions from the public or private sector, international cooperation, contributions from the obligatory investment of not less than one per cent of projects subject matter of environmental licensing, funds from environmental compensations, licenses, permits, concessions and other environmental authorizations, and any other sources that might be deemed relevant. All these sources should be consulted, and the funds that can finance the project and the requirements that have to be met in each case in order to access those funds should be reviewed. P.U.: HOW MANY PHASES ARE THERE IN THE PROJECT? R.P.: The project has three principal

phases that need to be financed.

which also contributes whatever funds it can, and finally there is the local environmental authority (CAR or AAU), which promotes the restoration and production reconversion actions.

The pre-investment phase involves costs associated with preliminary studies for the project, including project awareness activities, licenses, structuring expenses, and meeting all necessary requirements. In the execution phase, project construction and commissioning activities have to be carried out. And finally, the operation and maintenance phase requires funds for project execution and sustainment activities.


To date, three Forests for Peace projects have commenced, in Cesar, Antioquia and Quindío provinces, at an approximate cost of 5,161,708,071 million pesos. These projects cover an area of 1,136 hectares, 856 of which will be used for restoration processes, with around 633,000 trees being planted, thus benefiting 15,000 families.



The Ministry of the Environment issues the resolution, promotes the program and registers associated initiatives. The Forests for Peace agent then proposes the particular forest for the project, coordinates the various institutions, and administers funds and skills. Another party is the municipality in which the project will be implemented, R.P.:

P.U.: WHAT OTHER PROJECTS ARE IN THE PIPELINE? R.P.: There will be an estimated 14 more inaugurations in 2017, with projects financed wholly in Quindío, Caldas, Antioquia, Putumayo and Bolívar prov inces at an approximate cost of 14,213,871,092 million pesos. These will cover a total area of 2,387.28 hectares, 1,486 of which will involve restoration processes. Approximately 1,049,915 trees will be planted, benefiting around 40,000 families. P.U.: WHAT DO COMMUNITIES

Each project will directly benefit between 100 and 200 families, at least.



PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Guillermo Torres

GET FROM THIS INITIATIVE? R.P.: They acquire the ability to engage in production activities and to manage their territory, in environmental terms. Beneficiary communities contribute to the sustainable exploitation and management of ecosystems for generating income and improving their quality of life, from the earliest stages. This involves them in training and

To date,


Forests for Peace projects have commenced, in Cesar, Antioquia and Quindío provinces.


PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Daniel Reina

Implementation of sustainable production systems is the component which ensures the sustainability of the project over time.

participation processes, thus ensuring sustainability over time.

country, who will benefit directly. 14 projects are currently scheduled for commencement next year


The reconciliation and constr uction of peace processes should be centered around victims of the conflict. In Forests for Peace projects, communities living in areas affected by the conflict are responsible for rebuilding the historical memory in their region and expressing this in what we have called a Living Monument to Peace. The Forests for Peace projects will thus be a symbolic contribution to the truth, memory and guaranteed non-repetition process. R.P.:

P.U.: HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BENEFIT? R.P.: We envisage every project directly benefiting between 100 and 200 families, at least. With the target of 120 Forests for Peace projects for 2018, we want to reach at least 40,000 families in the whole

P.U.: WHAT IS THE TARGET FOR RECOVERY OF LOST FOREST? R.P.: Forests for Peace should con-

tribute to the overall management of ecosystems and their biodiversity by generating restoration and preservation projects which, closely linked to knowledge generation programs, set out a conservation strategy for each forest that is established in Colombia. The program becomes an opportunity to invest in reinforcing conservation processes in the country, since it is also a focal point for international cooperation to provide monetary aid that focuses on community conservation processes and improving living conditions for population groups in the areas of interest. P.U.: HOW IS PROGRAM SUSTAINABILITY GUARANTEED? R.P.: If Forests for Peace are to be sustainable over time, each

Communities living in areas affected by the conflict are responsible for rebuilding the historical memory in their region.

project should complement the planning, environmental management and land regulation instruments in the areas where it is designed. Each one also guarantees the production activities that will reinforce sustainable development for the communities, since a marketable goods and services model is produced. It can thus contribute to the preservation, restoration, and sustainable use of ecosystems and agricultural ecosystems, to the generation of social wellbeing, and to a strengthening and diversification of the local and regional economy. P.U.: WHAT IS THE PRINCIPAL COMPONENT FOR THIS?

Implementation of sustainable production systems is the component which ensures the sustainability of the project over time, since it involves the community directly in marketing processes for its products, which is an additional advantage when it comes to selling them. Meanwhile, it is hoped that these activities will generate innovative ecological dynamics, as knowledge of biodiversity is applied by the beneficiary communities and therefore fosters productivity and competitiveness in terms of market access. R.P.:


Forests for peace RECONCILIATION THROUGH CONSERVATION This program aims to carry out reconciliation processes between communities and the green environment that surrounds them. Noteworthy results have already been achieved in Caldas and Bolívar.

By Francisco Ocampo

Findeter consultant


THE ‘FORESTS for Peace’ pro-

g ram is a Presidenc y o f the Republic initiative that pays tribute to the victims of Colombia’s armed conflict, which affected life in the country for more than fifty years and resulted in over 250,000 deaths and more than six million displaced persons. The program also aims to carry out a social and environmental reconciliation

FINDETER 12 / 13

process based on the conservation of strategic ecosystems for providing environmental services. The historic causes of deforestation have included increasing colonization due to demographic pressures and expansion of the agricultural frontier, illicit crops, internal conflict, displacement, and insufficient governance, all of which have persisted and

multiplied over time and resulted in even more pressure being exerted on the country’s forests, leading to deforestation. DANE indicators show that deforestation figures rose from 60,013,580 hectares in 1990 to 64,862,451 in 2012, an increase of 4,848,871 hectares, or by an average of 220,402 per year (“Monitoring of, and follow-up on, the deforestation phenomenon in Colombia”, DANE, 2014). One direct effect of this problem can be seen in hydrographic basin ecosystems that suffer the consequences of an inappropriate use of rural soils. This directly affects areas that

PHOTOS: iStock


supply cities and regions with water for human consumption and agricultural production. Water shortages are getting longer, and service sustainability is at risk. Findeter tasked itself from the start with promoting the ‘Forests for Peace’ program, and in May 2016 it commenced various activities, including drawing up a pilot project in the town of El Carmen de Bolívar, with the backing of the Bolívar provincial government The initiative has also been promoted in municipalities and regions throughout the country, such as Ibague (River Combeima basin), Chinchiná (River Chinchiná basin), Sincelejo (Morrocoy stream) and

the Valle de Aburrá metropolitan area (Cinturón Verde), and also in Santander province (Santurbán, Mid-Magdalena). In Carmen de Bolívar, the project was introduced in the settlement of El Salado, scene of one of the worst events in the country’s violent history. Since August 2016, the work of designing and shaping the project has been in the hands of the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, which is the natural leader of any activity related to environmental conservation. To institutionalize it, Resolution 2028 dated December 6, 2016. This contains the regulatory framework for the program.


Between 1990 and 2012, the deforestation figure increased

4´848.871 by hectares.

The key to the program’s success lies in developing a management model based on governance, which is understood as referring to interactions and agreements between governors and the governed in order to create opportunities and find solutions to people’s problems, and to build the necessary institutions and regulations for achieving these changes. Governance describes a complex systemic transformation at different levels, from local to worldwide, and in different sectors: public, private and civil. All public institutions which


Initiatives have also been carried out in Ibague, Chinchiná, Sincelejo, the Valle de Aburrá metropolitan area, and Santander.

act as authorities for policies to be applied therefore need to be involved with the private sector and organized communities in a project’s area of influence. Actions can thus be determined by agreement which are not only sustainable in the long term but can also achieve the goals sought. ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAM COMPONENTS

Ecological restoration of areas identified, and also the different regional projects, will be carried out by planting forest to the respective ecosystems and designing systems that simulate the successional dynamics of the natural forest. Other landscape


FINDETER 14 / 15

Forests at heights of over

2.500 meters above sea level in Colombia are among the ecosystems that have been transformed most, with a deforestation figure of between 73 and 90 per cent.

management tools can be designed, and a three-year period for the work should be scheduled, in order to ensure that the project becomes well-established: maintenance in the first year, and two further maintenance periods over the following 24 months. The aim of this is to guarantee that the plantation becomes properly consolidated and that with time it will become a forest. PRODUCTION PARTNER

Activities will be carried out with communities in the direct area of influence of the project, the aim being to form community organizations or associations for administering and managing the restored area.

Sustainable production options of an agro-forestry or forestry-pastoral nature should also be identified, and a food security and production chain program should be drawn up that aims to ensure that products from the project zone can be exported. ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION COMPONENT

This consists of carrying out environmental education activities relating to the project that is being executed and forming the Guardians of the Environment and Peace Group, which will be responsible for supervising, preserving and managing the area in conjunction with the community in the project’s area of influence.



The aim is to ecologically restore 60 hectares (35 already restored) of land on the La Cabaña and Romeral properties belonging to Caldas hydroelectric power station (CHEC) using species from the area, as part of a scheme that simulates the successional dynamics of the sub-moorland ecosystem. This will be a pilot project for the one in the biological corridor between the upper basins of the Campoalegre and Chinchiná rivers. These are vitally important in the central-southern part of Caldas province, principally the upper basin, since they are strategic biodiversity conservation areas. The high-Andean or cloud forests at heights of over 2,500 meters above sea level in Colombia are the areas that have been suffered most, with a deforestation figure of between 73 and 90 per cent (IAVH, 1997). It is calculated that only 11 per cent of this type of hypothetical original formation survives (Etter, 1998). These forest formations, together with moorland, are the most important ecosystems in terms of water regulation, since they increase net precipitation from horizontal rainfall and reduce transpiration (Stantmüler, 1997: quoted by Vargas, IAVH, 2004).

The Chinchiná-CHEC pilot project on the La Cabaña and Romeral II property is the first ecological restoration project based on the Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) methodology for implementing landscape management tools (Humboldt) in large-scale strategic ecosystem conservation programs linked to moorland and sub-moorland zones that belong to biozones adjoining Colombia’s snow-capped peaks. The work done in the zone marks the restart of technical research aimed at improving moorland restoration processes. There are many studies of this, but little large-scale implementation work has been carried out. The process has proved to be extremely successful, since better working mechanisms were able to be established, and ways to be more efficient. This work provided valuable experience for the strategic design of the macro project for the ChinchináCampoalegre biological corridor. MONTES DE MARÍA PROJECT, EL CARMEN DE BOLÍVAR

The aim is to reforest an emblematic part of the municipality of El Carmen de Bolívar at the source of the Morrocoy stream and form Forests for Peace under the reconciliation through conservation concept as a contribution

to the historic memory of victims of the conflict. Ecological restoration has been taking place as part of a forestry scheme to link the Morrocoy stream to fragmented areas of natural forest in the settlement of El Salado. An awareness program is also being carried out with communities in the area, the aim being for them to appropriate the project, preserve it, and develop it in the future. The association scheme for future development considers this geographical area to be a special reserve (thematic park) with community participation that will become a national tribute to victims. The aim of designing a production project in conjunction with the community is that it will provide them with a way to earn a living in the future. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE STREAM

As a water system, it enables moisture from various streams in the area to be retained, and when water levels rise, it supplies important crop-growing areas in nearby hamlets. It is also a remnant of dry forest in good condition that provides connectivity for the conservation of species. It is home to tree species that have virtually disappeared elsewhere in the region, and provides a habitat for emblematic, endangered species like the white-faced monkey.

PHOTO: Fondo Bosques de Paz

The project aims to carry out a social and environmental reconciliation process based on the conservation of strategic ecosystems for providing environmental services.


Barbacoas marsh has around 20,000 hectares of water and is situated in Yondó, two hours distant from Puerto Berrío (Antioquia), on the River Magdalena.

THE INSTRUMENT THAT CREATES SUSTAINABLE The appropriate use of water is a fundamental factor in the development of a city, a region and a country. In Colombia, however, this vital liquid has been managed in a limited, reactive and, hence, unsustainable way.



PHOTO: Carlos Vargas

territories By Ernesto Guhl Nannetti,

Former Deputy Minister of the Environment. Member of the Academy of Exact Physical and Natural Sciences.



Climate change. Niño/Niña phenomenon. Unsustainable activities.


PHOTO: Archivo Semana


Sustainable development Sustainable territories

BEC AUSE OF its strateg ic

geographical position astride the Equator, its proximity to two oceans and the presence of the Amazon jungle, Colombia boasts a plentiful and active hydrological cycle centered around the Andes mountains. This means it is a member of the small group of countries that can rely on an abundant natural supply of water throughout virtually their entire territory. However, the nation and its inhabitants have never understood

Sustainable territories are the result of interaction between social and natural processes.

how to preserve or exploit this exceptional wealth and use it as a major factor in progress and wellbeing. Quite the contrary, for it has deteriorated and become impoverished. This is why it is vitally important that we transform our relationship with water through a far-reaching cultural campaign that will enable us to live and progress with it, rather than against it. Water is essential for living beings, society and socioeconomic activities, because it has a series of attr ibutes which, if used appropriately, mean it can be used as an instrument for determining


Deterioration Unsustainability

soil usage and land management. These attributes are well-known, and have great potential for creating social capital. Some of them are listed here: • It is vital. • It is the focal point around which ecosystems and development function. • It supports fairness and quality of life. • It transforms geography and landscape. • It generates economic and political power. • It is a potential source of risks and disasters.


PHOTO: Andrés Guhl

Colombia boasts a plentiful and active hydrological cycle centered around the Andes mountains.


Wate r m a n a g e m e n t i n Colombia has been limited a nd react ive , a nd there fore unsustainable, and this poses a dilemma: to go on doing ‘more of the same’ and see our water resources deteriorate, or to develop and implement novel, proactive management systems which set out to ensure that those resources are exploited in a sustainable manner. This concern, which is shared by various countries, has led to a new paradigm developing and gaining strength: Sustainable Territorial Systems, based on the principle that an activity is sustainable when the land where it takes place is also sustainable. T h e g o a l i s t o g e n e ra t e sustainable territories, meaning by this a complex creation resulting from the interaction between social and natural processes. One of these goals is that development should take place within the limits and capabilities of the supporting ecosystems, so as to ensure quality of life and social progress over time.


This principle clearly applies to the city - one of the most important human creations, if not the most important of all since cities are where most of the population live and engage in their various activities. To make cities sustainable, the regions around them and which provide them with the essential ecosystem services they need if they are to function should also be sustainable. The concept of ‘territory’ as a unit presupposes participative planning and joint management at both urban and rural levels, based around a symbiotic and functional interrelation between the two. It is impossible to conceive of sustainable cities unless their hinterland is sustainable, too. In order to bring this change to fruition, it is proposed that a more effective territorial governance be introduced which sets out to generate sustainable territories through the use of novel forms of planning and broader and more participative territorial management. This should be based

on integrating water and territory management, recognizing that the two are interdependent as well as the fact that water is vital and that it plays a powerful role in land management. This new model is called Integrated Water and Territory Management (GIAT, in Spanish). The first step on the road to success is to precisely define the territory where it will apply by going beyond the supra-municipal vision and broadening the scope to include the region and the long term, then designing it in every case on the basis of the individual characteristics of nature and society in each territory and the numerous, diverse public and private water users who need to be coordinated and should cooperate in order to achieve the common goal. The absence of any water governance system with this perspective is due to the fact that although water is defined as a public good, the system favors private interests and is based on a restrictive criterion that does not recognize spatial interdependencies, the regional nature of the hydrology cycle and the forms and ecosystems of the territory, which are generally supra-municipal. The basin has been considered the most ap propr i ate water

GIAT needs to have a very sound scientific basis, due to the uncertainty caused by natural phenomena, unsustainable socioeconomic activities and urbanization processes.


management area, but in reality the area is bigger than that. The boundaries of the regional entities that are mainly res p onsible for providing water, drainage, sewage and treatment services do not necessarily coincide with the boundaries of the basin that provides them, or with those of the ecosystems that generate and regulate water. This is why GIAT needs to cover a larger territory that is bounded by the interaction between various complementary criteria. T h e co n ce p t o f a Wate r Region thus arises, the limits of which are defined by three criteria: hydrographic, which is the structuring element and should cover both the natural and the constructed water systems; political/administrative, based on the municipality as the state water management area; and ecological, which adds areas occupied by ecosystems on which the ecosystem services that guarantee current and future water availability depend. The proposal also aims to simplify the planning instruments that regional entities and CARs are required to design and develop on various issues, which are approached from different perspectives, with different priorities and on different scales, meaning that they nor mally e n d u p b e i n g co n t rad i c to r y and conflicting, and creating a confused management scenario. This means that GIAT needs to have a very sound scientific basis, due to the uncertainty that is caused by natural and anthropic phenomena, climate change, extreme hydro-meteorological phenomena, unsustainable

The conception of territory as a unit presupposes participative planning and joint management of rural and urban matters.

socioeconomic activities, and urbanization processes. It is as essential for knowledge and information to be generated about the state of the territory as it is for follow-up and monitoring systems to be established that will allow the GIAT cycle to be adjusted and to evolve. T he prop os e d op erat ing arrangement for this model is founded on two cornerstones: participative planning of water and the territory with a long-term,

regional vision of generating s u staina ble ter r i tor ies , and integrated financial management i n o rd e r to e n s u re t h at t h e necessar y financial resources and mechanisms are available for executing the projects and carrying out collectively-defined actions. Finally, it should be stressed that GIAT and Water Region are novel concepts that allow water and territor y to be managed jointly, in order to generate sustainability for them.

Water is…

BIBLIOGRAFÍA The focal point around which ecosystems and development function.

What supports fairness and quality of life. What transforms geography and landscape.

What generates economic and political power. A potential source of risks and disasters.

• Chambers, N., Simmons, C., and Wackernagel, M., 2000. Sharing Nature’s Interest. Ecological Footprints as an Indicator of Sustainability. Earthscan. • Guhl-Nannetti, E., Wills E., Macías, L. F., Boada, A., Capera, C., 1998. Guía para la gestión ambiental regional y local: el qué, el quién y el cómo de la gestión ambiental. FONADE, DNP e Instituto Quinaxi. • Guhl-Nannetti, E. 2011-2012. Lecturas Ambientales Número 2 y 3. Unpublished documents. • Guhl-Nannetti, E, 2015. Nuestra Agua. ¿De dónde viene y para dónde va? Empresa de Acueducto de Bogotá. Bogotá. • Guhl-Nannetti, E., La Gestión Ambiental en Colombia, 19942014: ¿Un esfuerzo insostenible? Foro Nacional Ambiental, FESCOL, Quinaxi, 2015. • Kolbert, E. 2015. La Sexta Extinción. Una historia nada natural, Crítica, Barcelona.

• Klein, N. 2015. Esto lo cambia todo. El capitalismo contra el clima. Editorial Planeta Colombiana, Bogotá. • P.H. Verburg, et al., Land system science and sustainable development of the earth system: A global land project perspective, Anthropocene (2015), ancene.2015.09.004 • Semillas de historia Ambiental/ Stefania Gallini, editor- 1a ed .Bogotá, Universidad Nacional de Colombia /Facultad de Ciencias Humanas: Jardín Botánico José Celestino Mutis, 2015. • World Resources Institute, 2005. Millennium Ecosystems Evaluation. UNEP. • WWF, ‘London Zoological Society. Global Footprint Network and European Space Agency. Living Planet Report, 2012: Biodiversity, biocapacity and future proposal.




Environmental experts are of the opinion that water use and management are fast becoming a major challenge in this historic period after the end of Colombia’s internal conflict. TODAY, SHORTLY before the

first of the twenty years that the national government estimates the post-conflict will last comes to an end, a number of new, key challenges for the future of the country and its 49 million inhabitants have come to light. One of the biggest of these challenges is water use and management. While the 2014



National Water Study states that the countr y ’s water resources are five times greater than the global mean, it is equally clear that a number of problems have arisen, such as shortages in different parts of the country that cause millions of Colombians to be thirsty. Against this backcloth, what is the importance of water in the post-conflict?

In an interview with Pensamiento Urbano, civil engineer Julio Carrizosa Umaña, a member of the Colombian Academy of Exact Physical and Natural Sciences and a former Environment Minister, who is considered the father of environmentalism in Colombia, explains what this means for society and the country.

PHOTO: Kipara Hotel, Bahía Solano


“The post-conflict is a good opportunity for us to review the true position as far as Colombia’s water resources are concerned. Really, the idea that we are a country where water is not a problem is far from true. Events in recent years have led to water becoming extremely polluted, especially in the Andean and Caribbean regions and even in the Amazon, as tests for mercury contamination in some Amazon rivers and also in the River Atrato, in Chocó province, have shown”, the expert said. When asked about the real extent of this problem, the former

Minister of the Environment said that the post-conflict has caught the country at a “very difficult” moment in terms of water pollution. And he added that water restoration, especially in the Andean and Caribbean regions, is therefore a process that can “create jobs for many people”. He also stressed the contribution made by academia, by studying the phenomenon and introducing new curricular activities aimed at dealing with it, and pointed to researchers’ enthusiasm to show more robust ways of approaching the issue.

He explained that, in addition to the pollution that harms watercourses in over a hundred municipalities spread around half the country’s provinces, the idea that “the relationship between water and man’s wellbeing is not a straight line, but rather a parabolic curve” is still not clear in Colombia. To give a practical example of this view, Carrizosa Umaña referred to the country’s abundant rainfall. This recurring phenomenon in many parts of the country causes tremendous difficulties for human activities and damages the remaining environmental systems. He

Parts of Chocó receive more rain than anywhere else in the world.


In many areas where the growing of a certain type of agricultural crop predominated, this cannot continue today because both crops and soil use have changed.

identified places where problems arise with absorbing the sheer volume of water. “This happens in Chocó, where parts of the province have the highest rainfall figures in the world, while on the cordilleras, some slopes become unstable because of their characteristics. The post-conflict gives us the opportunity to get a much better understanding of the relationships between rain and wellbeing in Colombia”.

He also maintained that it will only be possible to consolidate this link insofar as scientific knowledge in the field is not disregarded, as it is elsewhere. He said that this is linked to “the love of imitating, and believing that we aren’t capable of creating science and technology and that what we have to do is imitate what is produced in other countries. This is false, because models are used that don’t coincide with the characteristics of our ecosystems, and that’s why they fail. This is what has happened all the time in Chocó”. In view of this, who is responsible for leading a group tasked with producing a road map for effectively solving these problems? The ex-Minister’s answer was

that the Institute for Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) was making progress on the matter. However, although he values the entity’s work, he maintained that it should be given a more important role and a higher-ranking position on the state’s organizational chart, with sufficient ability and power to protect the country’s natural heritage. To achieve this, he proposed that IDEAM be granted autonomous status, like Banco de la República has for protecting the nation’s financial resources. TERRITORIAL PLANNING

When asked whether or not the peace agreement contemplates

PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Álvaro Tavera

The big challenge lies in getting communities engaged in mining activities involving the use of heavy metals to reconvert and change their processes, so as not to further contaminate water and soils.



PHOTO: personal file

PHOTO: Archivo Semana


Julio Carrizosa Umaña,

Luis David Prieto,

planning soil use in rural areas most affected by the internal conflict, and if this could help improve the management of water resources, the former Minister of the Environment expressed optimism on both points. “I think so, because where the Agreements talk of comprehensive rural reform, welfare and wellbeing are stated as prime objectives. If we keep these objectives in mind, rather than ones that are popular in other development models, the situation can be improved in the field”, Carrizosa Umaña explained. On this same point, Luis David Prieto Martínez, an engineer who is also Academic VicePrincipal of Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, is of the opinion that the first thing to be done is to answer some essential questions. “One fundamental aspect when planning soil use is what the soil can be suitable for. The first thing to find out is whether the soils in these rural areas are to be preserved, whether they can be built on, or whether they are best suited for agriculture. In this latter case, and specifically in connection with the

land restitution process, conflicts are already occurring”. The academic maintained that in many areas where the growing of a cer tain type of agricultural crop predominated, this cannot continue today because both crops and soil use have changed. He explained that “peasants who had managed to live in harmony with water and crop cycles for various decades, even centuries, are now finding, when they return to their land, that not only is their food security threatened but also their access to water resources, due to inappropriate agricultural use”. Prieto Martínez considers that as a consequence of this, a number of challenges arise that require commitments. “How can we get a peasant to return to where he grew his subsistence crops and to fall in love again with his production activity? How can we boost soil suitability and at the same time guarantee food production in urban centers? These are questions that once again raise big challenges and demand joint action by the

considered the father of environmentalism in Colombia.

Academic Vice-Principal, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

According to the

2014, National Water Study, the country’s water resources are five times greater than the global mean.

national government and every one of us who eats food produced in the countryside”, said the academic. Since this historic period has now begun, the Javeriana University Academic Vice-Principal set out for Pensamiento Urbano the challenges facing the country in terms of the relationship between water and the post-conflict. First: that peasants who return to their land should be really able to adapt to the territory and go back to growing the crops that matched the water supply and demand conditions in the respective area. Second: that groups and communities engaged in mining activities involving the use of heavy metals should reconvert and change their processes, so as not to further contaminate water and soils. Third: that mitigation measures should be increased and adaptation measures be promoted for communities who are at risk because of extreme natural hydro-climatological events (including drought). Fourth: that the differences should disappear for ever and access be guaranteed to drinking water in quantities and of a quality that are in line with human dignity. And fifth: that all measures aimed at securing environmental education and water governance actions should truly ensure sustainability in the use and management of water resources. Today, when economic sustainability and several of the issues that will be raised over the next two decades in Colombia are being discussed, experts are spelling out the importance of water resources and the post-conflict.



is a compilation of the results from an evaluation of the country’s surface and underground water, use and demand, quality conditions, and the effects on the hydrological regime of variability and climate change. P.U.: HOW DOES THE COUNTRY COMPARE WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD IN TERMS OF WATER AVAILABILITY?

PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Alejandro Acosta

In an interview with Pensamiento Urbano, Ómar Franco, Director of the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), referred to the importance of making the right decisions about water conservation and the fight against climate change in the country.

O.F.: Colombia is one of the countries with the most natural water in the world, although its distribution is not the same in each of the five hydrographic areas. The study estimates that the average figure is 56 l/s-km2, which is more than five times the world average (10 l/s-km2) and 2.5 times that for Latin America (21 l/s-km2)

COLOMBIA IS one of the coun-


tries with the most natural water in the world, boasting on average five times the global mean and twice the mean for Latin America. These figures are taken from information contained in the 2014 National Water Study (ENA), published by IDEAM, which has become a reference work for territorial planning and water measurements. In an interview with Pensamiento Urbano, IDEAM director Ómar Franco went into greater detail about this and other matters.



O.F.: Clearly its detail. At hydrographic subzone level, the document allows regional authorities and production sectors to incorporate all water supply indicators in the country into their planning instruments. Having a technical instrument like the ENA study available will help ensure that water is managed and used appropriately. Knowing how much water there is and where it is concentrated is an important technical advance, since those who use it and are thinking of starting up a production activity will be able to make better decisions.


together all information about, and knowledge of, the hydrological cycle. The 2014 National Water Study




PHOTO: Archivo Semana - AndrĂŠs Monsalve


O.F.: It means that in 74.5% of the

15 % of the 61 aquifer systems have an appropriate level for management and exploitation.

country it will be possible to exploit underground water, and this in itself indicates water riches of incalculable value. However, we only know that 15 per cent of the 61 aquifer systems have an appropriate level for management and exploitation, and this restricts our overall understanding of the hydrological cycle. P.U.: WHAT IS THE DEMAND FOR WATER IN THE DIFFERENT SECTORS?

In December 2015 and for much of 2016, the River Magdalena was 32 centimeters deep, well below the average minimum. O.F.: It should be pointed out here that water demand is deemed to refer to the extraction of water from the natural system to meet human consumption and sector production needs and requirements and the essential demands of existing ecosystems. The country’s total, aggregate water demand is thus 35,987 million m3 per year. The agricultural sector consumes 46.6 per cent of

this total, followed by the energy (21.5 per cent), livestock (8.5 per cent), domestic (8.2 per cent) and industrial (5.9 per cent) sectors. P.U.: IS THERE ENOUGH WATER FOR ALMOST 48 MILLION COLOMBIANS?

Bearing in mind that the Magdalena-Cauca and Caribbean hydrographic areas, including the Catatumbo river basin, make up 13.5 per cent and 9.1 per cent,



respectively, of all surface water in the country, the answer is yes, we do have enough water. However, it is clear that if we go on failing to respect the boundaries of moorland and wetland ecosystems and areas of water interest, and furthermore fail to reduce deforestation and erosion, it will be hard for us to go on having enough. P.U.: WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CONCERN?

Environmental indicators for water, soils, forests and climate change.



2016, there was a significant increase in deforestation in the Andean and Caribbean regions. Erosion in the Caribbean region and the center of the country is on the rise, due to bad soil use, and there has been an increase in the quantity of sediment deposited in the rivers, the figure for which now stands at over 360 million tonnes, according to the ENA study. Indicators show that the greatest concern is that regions with the least water, such as Magdalena-Cauca and Caribbean, should make a greater effort to reverse the trend and ensure that work is done that will

“Having a technical instrument like the ENA study will help ensure that our water is managed and used appropriately�.


PHOTOS: iStock

O.F.: In


Colombia is one of the countries with the most natural water in the world, although its distribution is not the same in each of the five hydrographic areas.


The biggest concern is environmental indicators for water, soils, forests and climate change.

In 2016, there was a significant increase in deforestation in the Andean and Caribbean regions. Erosion, meanwhile, is also on the rise, due to bad soil use.

of the water supply, basin regulation conditions, pressure due to use (accumulated demand for socioeconomic activities in the basin), the fact that basins are vulnerable to variability and climate change, deforestation, soil erosion, and deficient catchment, storage, distribution and treatment infrastructure.

proceed with implementing adaptation measures. This analysis is a strategic landmark in terms of managing climate change, since it establishes unprecedented elements and clarifies numerous issues at municipal level that are not limited just to mainland Colombia but also apply to coastal areas and islands.







The challenge facing Colombia is to generate a greater and better understanding of climate change, so that correct decisions can be made about managing the risk and adapting to the phenomenon. The decisions we make as a country today about water use and management, infrastructure, zoning and production systems, among other issues, will determine the path we follow toward resilient, medium- and long-term development.

O.F.: Helping the areas most vulnerable to shortages, which means designing alternative solutions with sustainable models that cover the whole hydrological cycle (interaction between surface water, underground water and meteorological water), and demand-focused management (the saving and efficient use of water, reuse, administering losses and water unaccounted for, mainly).


guarantee recovery, management and appropriate use of the territory by multiple sectors. P.U.: WHICH ARE THE MOST POLLUTED REGIONS OF THE COUNTRY? O.F.: The worst-affected parts of the country in terms of water pollution, due to domestic waste water being poured into the supply, are mainly the cities with the largest populations, namely Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Bucaramanga, Villavicencio and Manizales. P.U.: WHY IS THERE A LIKELIHOOD OF SHORTAGES?

Shortages are due to such things as unequal distribution




The Climate Change Vulnerability and Risk Analysis conducted by IDEAM broadens our understanding of the climate-territory relationship in Colombia and sets out guidelines for all competent authorities in the regions so that they can O.F.:

O.F.: Increase all necessary educational activities aimed at encouraging the appropriate use and management of water. And incorporate the ENA study into decisions relating to territorial planning; in other words, all development projects should clearly establish the natural supply and define appropriate use.



basin viewpoint The National Environmental Licenses Authority (ANLA) has changed its analytic approach to its studies. It now aims to increase the knowledge generated and improve decision-making.

By Claudia Victoria Gonzรกlez Hernรกndez

Director, National Environmental Licenses Authority.

THE NATIONAL Environmental Licenses Authority (ANLA) faces new challenges every day, and it has modified its approach to analysis and evaluation in order to help it deal with them. It has changed from examining the projects and activities it studies from a national viewpoint to seeing them from a regional angle. This includes projects of different magnitudes and importance which, in turn, have impacts that can change the very dynamics of the regions.


ANL A looks on the region as a study unit that enables the relationships and links between projects and activities carried out and the socio-environmental changes and alterations that can arise to be analyzed. The hydrographic basin has been viewed as an ideal and relevant analysis unit for conducting regional evaluations, because it allows the entity to identify environmental matters of interest, critical factors, conflicts, and other specific conditions and features. This, in turn, enables more knowledge to be generated for decision-making purposes on matters like project viability and determining factors relating to the use and exploitation of natural resources. THE BASIN UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

This is the minimum analysis unit for conducting water management from a comprehensive, systemic viewpoint. Not only are projects examined independently, their function and their impact are also studied, as are the different


relationships and links they can have with their surroundings and other activities, as well as the possible accumulation and synergy interactions and effects that these impacts could be registering. For purposes of carrying out analyses at basin level, the ANLA

Basin of the River Sogamoso.


water. ANLA is currently developing its Sector Monitoring Network strategy, built around independent monitoring by companies awarded licenses which enables these points to be reorganized in a network structure in the basin. “ The main progress made with this strategy has been in the basin of the River Calenturitas, in Cesar province, where the central focus has been on mining projects”, the regionalization instrument reported. Because it has these technological and knowledge management tools, ANLA carries out regional analyses of basins where there have been significant hydroelectricity developments. These analyses make the early identification possible of potential accumulative impacts on freshwater ecosystems at hydrographic basin level. This work should help

The basin is the minimum analysis unit for managing water from a comprehensive, systemic viewpoint.


Environmental Instruments, Permits and Procedures Subdivision has established a number of groups for generating knowledge and management tools, such as the regionalization instrument or the economic appraisal and compensations and instruments tools. Each of these specialist groups contributes fundamental material for producing comprehensive regional analysis reports that provide information and knowledge for evaluating and following up on projects for which licenses have been granted. They also generate input for incorporating the regional vision into the terms of reference. Essentially, it has been determined that, from the basin perspective, the short-, medium- and long-term impact of management actions can be monitored and evaluated, such as the quantity and quality of surface and underground

with the drawing-up of long-term hydroelectric plans, offering the benefits of new infrastructure while keeping river systems safe and productive. After conducting a regional analysis, the ANLA Evaluation and Follow-up Subdivision verifies the most important aspects of projects located in the same basin, with a view to updating the regional information that the entity generates. This material is extremely useful when decisions have to be made in real time and for constructing the country’s regional baseline. The process of incorporating the ‘basin vision’ into the environmental licensing process and, above all, into overall water management programs, is barely beginning, but this change poses new challenges in terms of the country’s development projections, and also for those who make the decisions. Comprehensive Water Management thus needs all parties involved in the different stages of development to play an active part. The main challenge facing ANLA is coordinating with other regional environmental authorities in order to optimize decision-making on water use, exploitation, follow-up and control. This interinstitutional synergy process needs to be linked even more closely to research centers, so that clear, objective guidelines can be established for water analysis, monitoring and follow-up. It should be stressed that ANLA can contribute to sector development guidelines based on its knowledge of the current position with respect to intervention activities by major projects.



CAN BECOME AN OCEANIC POWER” This is how Rear Admiral Paulo Guevara Rodríguez, Director General of Colombia’s Maritime Authority (DIMAR) refers to the possibilities for the country to exploit its maritime strength.

THE FACT that its shores are

washed by the waters of two oceans means that Colombia is not just the only country in Latin America to be blessed with this natural attribute but also a coastal state where nearly half of its territory is sea: those very same marine waters that 90 per cent of its foreign trade crosses. Colombia’s maritime authority, DIMAR, which is responsible for supervising and caring for these natural riches, not only executes government policies in this field but also has made significant and pioneering innovative technological progress in the field of oceanography. In an interview with Pensamiento Urbano Maritime Director General Paulo Guevara Rodríguez referred to the importance of oceanographic research, the riches to be found in the country’s portion of the two oceans, and offshore hydrocarbon exploration activities.




Colombia is a coastal state with tremendous potential to become an oceanic power.


implies tremendous strength, the ability to exploit the various economic possibilities the sea offers: mariculture, tourism and ecotourism, which improve the social and economic conditions of people living on its shores. We have a whole sea of opportunities, a gateway to the rest of the world, and a situation we should become aware of.

P.U.: HOW HAS THE COUNTRY BENEFITED FROM BEING BOUNDED BY TWO OCEANS? P.G.R.: So far, very little, compared to the oceans’ potential for exploitation and sustainable use. And not just from the resources perspective, but also bearing in mind the implementation of strategies that will enable the country’s marine interests to be promoted while at the same time protecting the oceans by considering the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal factors that could affect them.

Rear Admiral Paulo Guevara Rodríguez, Maritime Director General.

P.U.: AS MORE THAN TEN FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS HAVE BEEN SIGNED, TO WHAT EXTENT HAS MARINE ACTIVITY IN COLOMBIA’S SEAS INTENSIFIED? P.G.R.: There has unquestionably been a big increase in traffic in Colombia’s seas, and this has led to a parallel increase in the risks, challenges and threats that DIMAR has identified and then managed by extending its coverage, services and activities.

out far-reaching research projects on matters relating to the sea, the atmosphere and coastal zones. Finally, both have been possible because of the support and leadership they have received from the Colombian Navy, DIM A R , and the Colombi an Ocean Commission.



The expedition to Antarctica is one, and Seaflower is the other. They are similar in that both use research ships belonging to the Colombian Navy, involve researchers from the most important universities and research institutes in Colombia and in other countries, and carry


Comprehensive marine security controls at the ‘Port City’ tourism pier, Buenaventura Captaincy of Ports, Valle del Cauca.



90 %

of the country’s foreign trade crosses its seas.


can be said to have a direct impact on protecting the country’s maritime interests, while hydrography does the same for protecting the


sovereignty of Colombia’s maritime territory. When an oceanographic study is conducted, the results can be used to generate knowledge about conditions in our seas. This information is vital in such matters as monitoring and evaluating the El Niño phenomenon, establishing primar y high-productivity zones for fishing, exploiting the energy in the ocean, improving overall maritime safety conditions, the sustainable exploitation of tourist attractions, and mitigating the impact of marine threats.

Aerial view of ARC Providencia, the floating unit that conducts naval support and oceanographic and hydrographic research operations for the General Maritime Division and the Colombian Navy.


It is an ongoing process, and it would be wrong to generalize about a whole countr y by talking of a lack of maritime awareness . A s already mentioned, we are currently working to get children to feel a love for the sea, and what could be better than for them to teach their parents to not pollute it, to recycle, and to take an interest in the sustainable exploitation of it? In Buenaventura, for example, hundreds of people earn their living from the sea, and more and more work is being done through campaigns aimed at raising awareness in the community. People have understood that since it is their principal source of income, it should be their main concern. P.G.R.:


Colombia is facing big challenges in terms of consolidating its position as an oceanic




power and its maritime nature. These challenges include protecting and defending its maritime limits and frontiers, continually improving the products and services it offers for guaranteeing human safety at sea, and preventing pollution of the marine environment. There is also a need to guarantee an appropriate

Oceanography has an impact on protecting maritime interests, while hydrography does the same for protecting the sovereignty of Colombia’s maritime territory.


sanction system against those who violate our marine resources, plus an adequate compensation system and overall safety on the high seas, to make the sea a fundamental element of the peacebuilding process and to undertake more research so that strategic decisions can be made about our national and international relations for meeting commitments, listening effectively to users and setting new trends. P.U.: WHAT IS THE MAIN CHARACTERISTIC OF THE MARINE ECOSYSTEMS IN COLOMBIA’S CARIBBEAN REGION? P.G.R.: Their

immense riches and the privileged location of many of them. Marine ecosystems in the Caribbean are very rich and immensely biodiverse. However, they are fragile, and vulnerable to climate change.

Access channel to Buenaventura Bay. Pacific Marine Signaling Pier.

P.U.: WHAT IS COLOMBIA’S PACIFIC COAST LIKE? P.G.R.: It is a beautiful, diverse re-

gion with vast riches. It is noted for its good fishing productivity levels, and its oceanographic conditions are ideal for a wide variety of marine species. The coastal scenery is unbeatable, and ideal for ecotourism. Every Colombian should be proud of the country’s Pacific region.

Traffic has increased in Colombia’s seas, and this has led to an increase in risks, challenges and threats.

Colombia’s Maritime Authority is working with other state entities on control, follow-up, supervision and response arrangements in order to guarantee that, should any risk materialize, the marine activity in question does not affect our vital heritage, the sea.

equipping, tools and infrastructure, among other processes, in order to guarantee a safe activity. Strict adherence to national and international legal commitments is also necessary. P.U.: HOW MUCH HAVE INTERNATIONAL RULINGS AFFECTED







P.G.R.: Not at all, because Colombia’s


P.G.R.: The

frontiers are still the same, unless there is a treaty that modifies them. Colombia’s Maritime Authority continues to perform its duties and to conduct research within its jurisdiction.


A certain level of risk to the environment is inherent in any human activity, and offshore drilling is no exception. The most important thing, therefore, is that P.G.R.:

main thing is to have systems that permit real-time monitoring of, and prompt reactions to, the whole activity. For obvious reasons, this will involve big investments in training ,







8,080,734 96.60%* 87.20%












in figures Based on information from the Ministry of Housing, the National Planning Department and Findeter, Pensamiento Urbano presents the most important information about the water systems in the country’s main cities. .


Water system coverage in Colombia


Urban sewage system in Colombia 12th place on the continent


Urban cleaning penetration

Water system coverage in Latin America





























73.20% IRCA


KEY Population


Water system coverage


Sewage coverage

Cleaning coverage

Water Quality Risk Index WQRI for human consumption


At the top of the list 1




66,679 100% 100%
















Findeter and basic sanitation







The entity executed works as part of the Water for Prosperity program in 161 municipalities. As at August 2017, it had carried out 259 projects involving an investment of COP 2.1 billion.

Of these projects:

* Population: Source Dane. ** IRCA RANGES 0 – 5%: No risk 5,1 – 14%: Low 14,1 – 35%: Medium 35,1 a 80%: High 80,1 a 100%: Unviable *** IND: No available **** INE: Information not delivered by companies

1,54 Billion


Were completed and operating.

95 26

Were being executed Were awaiting confirmation.

Between 2010 and 2017, generated disbursements for the water sector totaling COP 1.54 billion. Fuente: FINDETER

The ones that lag behind 2 PUERTO INÍRIDA


20,147 17.70% 39.60%














27% IRCA



INFOGRAPHIC: Alejandra Sarmiento




MANIZALES IS the birthplace of

disaster prevention in Colombia. The local authorities and the general public have fought to prevent the city’s vulnerability and the risk associated with water from increasing, having learned the lesson from past tragedies. Only recently there were landslips and avalanches in the poorest neighborhoods. The River Chinchiná Basin Agreements are mostly managed


by women from Corpocaldas, M a n i z a l e s Wa t e r C o m p a ny, Empresas Públicas de Medellín’s C a ld a s Hyd ro ele ctr ic Powe r Station, and A NDI’s re g ional Inter-Industr y Committee. The aim is to help restore the Manizales Stream, and work is being done to this end in conjunction with the industrial sector, based on the Comprehensive Plan of Action for the stream, which


PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Carlos Julio Martínez

In view of the conflicts that have arisen due to sustainability policies being executed that do not meet needs and the new commitment to implement Land-Focused Development Plans, authorities have found that Water Agreements are the way to approach these challenges.

By Ricardo Lozano

Director, ANDI National Water Center

consists of signing agreements under the terms of a new corporate citizenship model that is the inspiration for national policies to find successful regional instruments at all levels.


PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Juan Pablo Gutiérrez

The basin of the River Chinchiná extends from Los Nevados National Park to the valley of the River Cauca.

The River Chinchiná Basin Agreements are mostly managed by women.

This local public-private model has three fundamental objectives. The first is to manage the disaster risk and sector and economic vulnerability. The second is Cleaner Production, with local targets, and the third is conservation of areas of environmental interest. This latter involves the setting-up of a ‘good practices bank’ in production systems and the implementation of a Sponsor Plan that identifies successful entrepreneurial initiatives in comprehensive water management. The agreement establishes land management projects and programs that are to be approved by the environmental authorities responsible for such matters, and it identifies present limitations and future challenges. These

latter are of a financial, technical and administrative nature. To look further into these challenges, a public-private Water Fund is being set up, and it is proposed that water and soil decontamination targets be redefined and made compulsory for everyone. In administrative terms, public and private entities clearly move at different rates and have different cultures, and this is considered to be where the biggest challenge lies. Elsewhere, in war-ravaged areas, the challenge lies in designing new Municipal Land-Focused Development Plans where Water Agreements reinforce jointly-established projects and targets through trust, participation, cooperation, financing and execution instruments. Against this background, the joint work model encourages the use of a local approach to planning sustainable development and for dealing with new national challenges. The key to the process thus lies in adopting a property-by-property land management methodology, with a collective rather than individual vision. Under this scheme, the needs of the property owner should not compromise the needs or interests of a neighbor, and so on throughout the basin. T he first step for people who have no legal problems with their property and whose land is degraded and has suffered from deforestation will be to draw up a business plan that involves products that are both environmentally and commercially viable. They are recommended to mark out and protect areas that are still in a good state of conservation, since payments for protecting services are already in progress and

The challenge is to design new municipal development plans where Water Agreements reinforce established projects and targets. there has been enough uncontrolled destruction of forests on farmland - for cattle-raising, for example. People need to know what the land is really suitable for and what its true potential is, because not all soils are good for certain products. This will depend on such things as minerals, topography, the impact of climate and the treatment those soils have received in the past. The lack of water is one of the biggest challenges nationwide, so the next step will be to sign public-private agreements to not touch protected forests and to stock rural and municipal water supply systems, in exchange for private incentives and investments. It will also be necessary to restrict economic activities around springs, and to get everyone to unite as common users of the basin. Investments by inter national cooperation agencies and by the Regional Autonomous Corporations or private enterprise currently need to identify these initiatives and guarantee that their funds are being well executed. It should be stressed that monitoring, verification, reporting and dissemination will be the window for national transformation, based on what is nowadays referred to as intelligent land management.



in projects

Various factors contribute to the poor quality of projects in Colombia’s water and sanitation sector, leading to different types of problem such as the nonexecution of funds and the indefinite postponement of works.

PHOTO: Archivo Revista Semana Álvaro Tavera

T H E COL OM B I A N S a n i t a r y

Ciénaga Barbacoas, Antioquia.



and Environmental Engineering Association (ACODAL) has been expressing its concern at the design deficiencies that have been found in water supply or sewage projects submitted to the government by municipalities or companies that provide water and sanitation services. These projects have already been allocated funds, but the inadequacies are so serious that they are affecting execution stages and, in most cases, are endangering future investments. Funds allocated to the sector and administered by Findeter or Fonade have not been executed in some periods due to projects being submitted that fail to meet technical requirements, resulting in their having to be redrawn, more funding having to be allocated and licenses and permits having to be applied for which, in some cases, mean execution of the works being placed at risk or postponed indefinitely.

PHOTO: personal file


By Maryluz Mejía de Pumarejo

Executive President, Colombian Sanitary and Environmental Engineering Association (ACODAL)

A water supply, sewage, water treatment and adaptation to climate change project requires multi-disciplinary work in all areas.

Indeed, most projects submitted to the Ministry of Housing, City and Territory are being rejected because they fail to meet the minimum requirements stipulated. This sector is not the only one affected by the problem. In others, such as highways and transportation, and infrastructure in general, the same concern has been expressed, because the country is not improving its infrastructure performance rating despite increased

investment. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s 2016-2017 Global Competitiveness Report put the country in 84th place out of 138 world economies on this matter. T he s e d y n a m ic s a re no t new. Six years ago, for example, in the private sector, the director of investment bank Correval s aid the follow ing: “Mone y, there is, but projects, no”. And Sergio Clavijo, President of the National Association of Financial Institutions (ANIF), recently stated that the result of the institution’s review of the transportation sector was a score of 5 out of 10, compared to 7.5 for energy, 8 for telecommunications and 7 for drinking water. The executive director of the Colombian Association of Engineering Faculties (ACOFI) has suggested that the causes of these problems with projects could lie in the poor quality of many further education institutions and a lack of the specific technical and technological skills that organizations require. The poor quality of projects, which has resulted in public funds

not being invested, not only affects the country’s competitiveness, it also delays expansion work and freezes sales by industries that supply such items as pipework and equipment and which, in the case of water supply networks and waste water transportation and treatment systems, had been expanding their production plants in Colombia and, in some cases, increasing their raw materials and finished product imports. As far as the drinking water and basic sanitation sector is concerned, there are many factors that explain the faults with projects and operations. These need to be analyzed, particularly, in the field of sanitary and environmental engineering, which is of interest to ACODAL. The reasons for these faults can be summarized as a failure to plan investments for expansion and maintenance, project quality, the ability to assume responsibility for controlling and following up on designs and construction, and problems getting components that should be functional operating and, hence, complementing existing water and sanitation supplies. INVESTMENT PLANNING

Some time ago, the Colombian Chamber of Infrastructure expressed the need for a master transportation plan that would extend beyond the four-year presidential periods and become a requirement for achieving expenditure efficiency. We have repeated in various texts that our sector needs a multiyear investment plan as part of a strategic program for the sector that covers the whole country. Master drinking water and basic sanitation


plans by region, sub-region, city and population center should be based on this master plan. It is one of the alternatives to be discussed at the workshops for experts that ACODAL hopes to arrange, when solutions to the problems facing the sector should be sought. Regional or sub-regional master plans, as the case might be, will enable the infrastructure beyond municipal level that is needed for exploiting economies of scale to be identified. This relates to the concern already expressed by the National Planning Department’s Deputy Territorial Director about the absence of major projects that consolidate city systems, where rural and urban act as complementary units. On the one hand, urban centers contribute technologies and the majority of user markets, and on the other, scattered rural housing and population centers contribute the land for infrastructure and water sources. If master plans are produced, investment will be orderly, and allocating funds to individual networks or infrastructure projects that later become ‘white elephants’ because they are not needed will be avoided. If a master plan is available, investments will be channeled to the necessary, functional projects that the plan covers. TOTAL PROJECT STRUCTURING

The government has arranged for public financial entities to help mayors and provincial governors structure investment initiatives that include contributions from royalties, the General Budget of the Nation and the General Participations System.


The role that these entities play in supporting the drawing-up of master water supply and basic sanitation plans and designing functional projects that are legally, financially and economically viable needs to be analyzed. In fact, it is not clear whether there are problems of supply or demand for this, and there is a need to evaluate whether there are too many access and procedural barriers that prevent regional entities from presenting initiatives. DESIGN QUALITY

Although a master plan defines what projects are necessary and what investments are needed, level three, or detailed, projects are needed. Designs are more likely to meet needs if they are based on the master plan. It should nevertheless be pointed out that although projects need to be submitted, many contain technical and technological problems that can be explained by poor consultancy quality and the scanty funding that is provided, for example, for soils studies and the selection of raw materials, among other problems that have become common and explain the lack of financing. It is an open secret that water and sanitation engineering consultancy firms are fast disappearing. Project structuring schemes where finance is the principal factor that determines what bid is selected have transformed the business structure of Colombian consultancy activities. A water supply, sewage, water treatment and adaptation to climate change project requires multi-disciplinary work by different branches of engineering,


Master plans will enable the infrastructure beyond municipal level that is needed for exploiting economies of scale to be identified.

economists, environmentalists, biologists and chemists. A project that is so important to human, vegetable and animal health and life cannot be determined from a single, professional training angle. Among other things, this is a matter that should be evaluated, in order to establish whether it is just a question of professional training weaknesses or insufficient funds allocated to the respective contracts at the design stage, or weaknesses in the terms of reference where what is demanded does not meet project needs. CONSTRUCTION FAULTS

Generally, faults during the construction phase appear to have


those who operate the systems with the necessary technical assistance and training is to go on seeing the investment having a low impact. COMPREHENSIVE WATER AND SANITATION

PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Ă lvaro Cardona


their origin in project faults. The builder, who should keep to the design plans, encounters problems when carrying out the works at the site for reasons such as a lack of geological or hydrological information, or problems with the raw materials and equipment selected, among many other issues that were not properly evaluated in the previous phase. This does not overlook the fact that construction faults also occur that can be put down to those who carry out the project. OPERATIONAL FAULTS

As a consequence of design or construction faults, other problems arise when a component

is operating as part of a system. However, it should be stressed that whereas a public services company has a natural incentive to demand good projects, the same cannot be said when the provider of the service or the contracting party is a municipality or a province. Municipalities or communities that operate a water supply or basic sanitation system do not always have the necessary technical skills to operate and maintain that system. This is a serious issue, when it is remembered that it is small municipalities and rural areas that generally lag behind most in terms of coverage and quality. To continue financing projects without providing

The World Economic Forum’s 20162017 Global Competitiveness Report put the country in 84th place out of 138 world economies on this matter.

The above overview of project and operation weaknesses illustrates the need for comprehensive management of water and sanitation projects. Problems arise in the different phases of a project, and the solutions should therefore be found in each one. Comprehensive management means reviewing the plan, establishing the relevance of the project, supervising the design and construction, and guaranteeing that authorities and project beneficiaries are kept well informed of its progress, quality, and envisaged impact. The discussion is thus now open about factors that affect project quality in the sector, since the factors mentioned here and the many others that arise all over the country should be subjected to detailed analysis, in order to come up with short-, medium- and longterm solutions. The country needs this effort by sector experts. In view of this need, ACODAL is willing to arrange workshops and to invite consultants, builders and operating companies and entities to take part. We are interested in proposing alternatives that will improve investment, especially since investments in the most backward areas in terms of quality and coverage are very definitely on the horizon during the post-conflict period.



PHOTO: Archivo Semana - VĂ­ctor Galeano


Sustainable Development Goal number six guarantees the availability and sustainable management of water. It also raises a series of challenges for 2030, such as sanitation for all.

One of the goals is to achieve universal, fair access to drinking water.


WHEN THE World Sustainable

Development Agenda was proclaimed, it was the result of the United Nations getting mankind to agree to, and adopt, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the corresponding 169 targets. This new global agenda, the most ambitious ever agreed upon by all nations, needs a number of major structural changes relating to people, the environment


and prosperity: transformations that will allow the world to move towards sustainability, which is deemed to be a balance between economic, social and environmental considerations. The agenda is an alliance between states, companies, academia and society, against a backdrop of a citizenry made up of individuals who are more participative and active. The ideal scenario is a society

that is fairer and more prosperous, since such a society improves living and environmental conditions as well as the business climate and markets; moreover, it permits growth and economic development that everyone will benefit from. The agenda therefore calls for commitment and action. This process brings with it a challenge of enormous proportions, since the work of all parties

PHOTO: Archivo Dinero - Alejandro Acosta


By Gustavo Galvis Hernández President, National Association of Public Services and Communications Companies (ANDESCO)

involved will have to be coordinated and synergies will need to be developed if the proposed goals are to be achieved. Getting different parties to work together when they have historically never done so and, moreover, do not know how to is no easy task, and therefore special methods need to be created. One example is the United Nations Global Compact, a worldwide initiative that has achieved such results as the Colombian Network, which is recognized as a fundamental platform for bringing different parties together and directing them towards a common goal: the 2030 Agenda. One of the most important SDGs is number six: “Achieve availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. A number of concrete targets are established for doing this. · Achieve universal, fair access to drinking water at a price that is affordable by everyone. The difference between urban and rural water supplies in Colombia is enormous. There is therefore a need to boost physical infrastructure programs if universal coverage is to be

achieved, based on a business modernization scheme, whether public, private or mixed, that will guarantee an operation that is sustainable over time and that a suitable payment is made for the service. · Achieve fair access to adequate sanitation and hygiene services, and bring to an end defecation in the open air. Before undertaking sewage treatment works, it is essential that sewage system coverage is increased significantly and that individual solutions (e.g. septic tank) are provided in rural and isolated communities. · Improve water quality by reducing pollution. Only around 30 per cent of sewage receives primary treatment in Colombia. It is essential that full sewage treatment projects are undertaken, based on state investment and business participation, where the rate to pay covers part of the capital invested and all administrative and operating costs. The state, including regional entities, will have to provide funding from the budget, the General Participations System and royalties to ensure financial closure of the projects. · Increase the use of water supplies in all sectors. This necessarily implies a rational use of water, with technology, in the form of low consumption devices, being compulsory in all buildings, and promoting the reuse of water and a more extensive use of rainwater in facilities inside buildings. · Put integrated water management into practice at all levels. There should be inter-sector management for the different sectors that use water, such as agriculture, hydroelectric energy, tourism and transportation, where availability is managed

It is essential that sewage treatment projects are undertaken, based on state investment and business participation.

appropriately and rationally, with fully established equipment. · Protect and restore water ecosystems, including forests, mountains, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes. Water harvesting is based on zero tolerance of deforestation, no urban developments on wetlands and around streams and rivers, appropriate aquifer refilling, and guaranteed flow to lakes and lagoons. · Support and reinforce local community participation in improving water and sanitation management. When social and community initiatives like water-watch committees and forest rangers are set up, the aim should be to consolidate the incipient water culture. Similarly, there should be a holistic view of management, in order to foster care. In practice, SDG 6, with its wording and targets, is public policy in the sector. Provincial governors, the production apparatus and companies and organizations that provide services should form a single collective, together with the community, whose goal is to protect water and ensure that it is used responsibly. Water is said to be a renewable resource, which is scientifically true because the hydrological cycle never fails. What is definitely not working, however is the use to which we are putting it.

This process implies coordinating the work of all parties involved and developing synergies that will enable the proposed goals to be achieved.


Waste water:

PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Juan Carlos Sierra


Sala Group President Humberto Rodríguez Cobo believes that water treatment is where the country’s real environmental challenge lies.

El Salitre treatment plant, Bogotá waterworks.




stalled capacity in terms of the infrastructure that is required for supplying people with water is a task that dates right back to the colonial era in Colombia. Much work has been done over the years towards achieving this goal, but efforts have always been overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the sanitation problems and the economic and logistical inadequacies of the authorities, not to mention the relative unsuitability of the personnel in charge of supervising them. The companies that have today become the main suppliers of the country’s drinking water and basic sanitation services appeared on the scene in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the coverage levels achieved are not sufficient for Colombia to be one of the top ten countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The state has therefore set itself the challenge of making these public ser vices universal by 2030, the deadline set in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is not just national, regional and local governments that have been, and will continue to be, involved in reaching the levels established in current indicators and increasing penetration in the medium and long term, but also private operators. The Sala Group is one of the best known of these private operators, for the work it has done in various parts of the country. The company was formed 21 years ago by architect Humberto Rodríguez Cobo, and it not only provides these services but also collects solid and dangerous waste

in various towns in the Caribbean and eastern regions, and even in the capital itself. In view of its activities and the results it has obtained, it was chosen by EY on October 13 last as its Master Entrepreneur of the Year. Rodríguez Cobo had the following to say on the importance of this award: “Working toward a higher goal that has a positive impact on a society is well worthwhile. In today’s world, what is good for society is good for companies. You have to work, but at the same time you need to understand that you have to generate wealth for everyone. It’s gratifying that hard work aimed at improving the environment and quality of life and, hence, helping to improve the dignity of the Colombian people, is recognized in the country”. Pe n s a m i e n t o U r b a n o talked with the prize-winning entrepreneur about drinking water supplies and basic sanitation, and also about collecting solid waste in the country.

PHOTO: personal file




The countr y has made significant progress in terms of coverage, continuity and quality in urban areas, but it still lags seriously behind in rural and remote areas, small towns and, especially, in the treatment of waste water. This latter is the big challenge facing our sector. There are still a number of large cities, such as Quibdó and Santa Marta, where the service is deficient, despite efforts to bring in specialist operators.


The water supply coverage figure for the country is

97 %

have presented have not been sufficient, and a major review is required of institutional schemes. For example, there is an urgent need for an evaluation to be carried out of the relevance and validity of Provincial Water Plans, which in their day played an important role but nowadays are not producing the envisaged results. P.U.: WHAT HAVE THE PRINCIPAL RESULTS BEEN?

The coverage figures of 97 and 91 per cent, respectively, for water supply and sewage systems are important, while the figure for waste water treatment, 37 per cent



of treatable water, is not so impressive, of course. This is the real environmental challenge the country is facing. Meanwhile, the figures for rural areas are lower, at around 73 per cent for water supply and 69 percent for sewage. As far as public waste is concerned, the coverage figures are around 97.4 per cent for collection and 94 per cent for final disposal in sanitary fills. P.U.: WHAT DO THESE INDICATORS MEAN? H.R.S.: T hat the countr y has achieved a lot in terms of the fundamental indicators, despite the problems already mentioned. However, the improvement in the indicators no longer shows the increases from a few years ago, especially in water supply and sewage services. Improvements can still be seen in waste management, the most dynamic sector, where the changes have been transcendental in recent years. Rural indicators need to get closer to urban ones. P.U.: HOW IMPORTANT IS SOLID AND

The coverage levels achieved are not sufficient for Colombia to be one of the top ten countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.


In terms of urban waste management, we have had the




It has been a very aggressive program in terms of resources, one that has been carried out almost continuously since the last decade. I think there have been many notable achievements, such as solving individual infrastructure problems, but there have also been major sustainability issues with many water supply systems. And I have also noted difficulties with coordinating execution. They use provincial water plans for delivering waste collection trucks to towns where there is already a service, or when they could be used to complement regional schemes.


opportunity to pioneer waste containerization. We have expanded into related services, we have introduced customer service strategies, despite dealing with mass markets, we have adopted state-of-the-art technologies, and we have designed specific benefits for our employees. P.U.: HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU SERVE?

We currently serve about 870,000 customers around the country, and we are deeply involved in the development of circular economy projects. Growth has been very significant in dangerous waste, and we now have the best-known brand in the sector: Tecniamsa, a project we have been working on since 2009 and which is today a leader in its field.


DANGEROUS WASTE COLLECTION? H.R.S.: Waste management is a passionate and very dynamic experience, one where changes are occurring all the time. Our vocation and raison d’être are essentially environmental. What we therefore want to achieve is to ensure that our environmental solutions have an impact on our country’s development and wellbeing, and we have had the opportunity to do this. The experience has thus been highly satisfactory.



are a number of cultural differences that we have been working hard on, but which need to be assisted by local administrations. In cities or areas where people have not had any previous contact with formal urban waste management processes, the task has been doubly challenging, because critical trash points are constant, and that’s without even mentioning separation at source.



This project, which will soon start operations, will improve energy effectiveness. The present 3000 kwa transformer will receive a 34,500-volt line.

WE SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS H.R.S.: The Colombian state should

make use of its powers and guarantee that the funds it sends to regional entities in the form of transfers from the General Participation System are used for what they are intended to be used for, namely guaranteeing the provision of public services and covering shortfalls between subsidies and socioeconomically-generated contributions.

The state has set itself the challenge of making these public services universal by

2030 the deadline set in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


the operation. And that is without considering what the whole country loses because of corruption. P.U.: CAN THE GOVERNMENT MEET ITS TARGET OF MAKING DRINKING WATER AND BASIC SANITATION SERVICES UNIVERSAL BY 2030? H.R.S.: Only if it manages to inno-

vate with the regulations and guarantee that funds get to where they should get to. Even then, I think it’s a very difficult target, like the ones it has set for exploiting waste for the same date.


This is not the case in every country in Latin America, and I would go as far as to say that it’s a rarity. The big challenge here is exploitation. The current exploitation rate is a mere 17 per cent, and it is expected to reach 30 per cent in 2030. However, this cannot be achieved just by recycling materials, since incentives are needed to treat organic waste. Attempts must be made to generate alternative energy from waste, as developed countries do. P.U.: AND WHAT HAPPENS WITH DANGEROUS WASTE?

When we analyze the financial viability of these projects, the answer is almost always the same. Even when the investment is financed in its entirety from government funds, these projects frequently don’t even pay the operating costs, whether because of payment capacity, collection issues, or size of


P.U.: HOW IS THE COUNTRY DOING IN TERMS OF COLLECTING SOLID WASTE? H.R.S.: It is a reference point in many senses. The regulatory frameworks have made it possible to have relatively clear rules (although judicial rulings continue to surprise us and worry us more and more).

The challenges are also significant as far as dangerous waste is concerned, but in this case, they relate to formalizing the activity. Large volumes have been built up, with waste going to sanitary fills or dumps, or being subjected to treatment that affects the environment.


PHOTOS: cortesía Grupo Sala

2,000 m3 storage tank, one of the two 90/24-plan storage components that will supply water to neighborhoods in Sincelejo.


Water reserves: LIFE ASSURANCES

A drinking water supply is one of the essential services that ecosystems provide for human beings, one without which a territory’s sustainability would be inconceivable. WHEN THE sky is clear, one or

more of the snow-capped peaks that dominate the Coffee Region can be seen from any of the four main cities in the area. Although these enormous mountains are no more than a pale reflection of what they were barely a few decades ago, they still supply over a million and a half people who live in those cities with water, and support most of their economy. Four cities, four rivers, and a close dependence that is only possible due to the conservation of one of the most emblematic national parks in the Colombian Andes. This is a situation that is repeated in other large cities in Colombia: Chingaza National Park supplies Bogotá and Villavicencio w i t h w a t e r, L o s Fa r a l l o n e s National Park supplies Cali, and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park supplies the capital city of Magdalena province. In fact,


By Luis Germán Naranjo Conservation Director, WWF Colombia.

the main reason for establishing many national protected areas was the need to guarantee Colombians a supply of good quality water. Despite the close relationship that exists between protecting these sources of water and human wellbeing, the vast majority of people are unaware of it. This translates into an inadequate connection at planning level between


conserving landscapes and managing urban centers and production systems, and this, in turn, leads to ever-increasing conflicts over access to essential water supplies. A good case in question is the Magdalena-Cauca basin. For historical reasons, 77 per cent of Colombians live in the region through which these two rivers flow, and it generates 86 per cent of national GDP. This concentration of people and production has resulted in many of the ecological



El PeĂąol - GuatapĂŠ reservoir is situated in eastern Antioquia province.

42 % of the forests in the basin have been felled, and this has triggered more erosion.

attributes that made it all possible being lost. 42 per cent of the forests in the basin have been felled in the last 30 years, and this has triggered erosion which today affects 78 per cent of the basin area, something that can be seen in the increased sedimentation in the two great river arteries. According to the most recent National Water Study produced by IDEAM, the quantity of water available per year in the Magdalena-Cauca basin, which

stood at 60,000m3 per inhabitant in 1985, had fallen to slightly less than 45,000m3 in 2014. Population growth has unquestionably had an impact on this indicator, but even so, it is clear that the decline in availability is a consequence of insufficient ecosystem management. Mining , hydrocarbon exploitation, draining wetlands for agriculture, using water for irrigation, building infrastructure works on flood plains, domestic and industrial pollution: all these activities are increasingly limiting the availability of water in a region that is so important for Colombians. Since the situation described affects a majority of Colombia’s population, water supply and demand projections for the country are not encouraging. Unless drastic measures are adopted to alter current water use and consumption habits, it is calculated that by the middle of the present century the water availability figure per capita in the country will have fallen to around 1,000m3 per year, which is equivalent to the values established in literature on this subject for a water crisis. This perspective, which becomes more and more real as the impacts of climate change become a daily occurrence, demands urgent, decisive action. The integration of land management and planning schemes on different scales and from different viewpoints is absolutely essential, in order to guarantee that water is available and managed sustainably for everyone, as enshrined in the sixth Sustainable Development Goal. An ambition of this magnitude requires water custody

It is calculated that by the middle of the century the water availability figure per capita in the country will be around 1,000m3 per year, equivalent to a water crisis. initiatives that involve local governments, environmental authorities, protected area administrators, public services companies and, of course, users. Water custody talks are mechanisms that reduce the number of access and use conflicts that arise and enable agreements to be negotiated, such as the coordinating of protected areas and setting-up of strategic conservation areas that stock rural water supply systems, as demonstrated recently in the basins of the Negro and Nare rivers in eastern Antioquia. However, if the sustainable development goal relating to water management is to achieve the desired dimension, it also needs to become a conservation tool that responds to ecological dynamics that have to be properly assured. There is therefore a need to determine ecological water flows, so that when the time comes to assign extraction and use quotas to different sectors, the minimum quantity of water necessary for the ecosystems to function is respected. Adopting this principle makes it possible to create water reserves, true life assurances which, in addition to guaranteeing water supplies for human beings, conserve the ecological integrity of water systems.


Basin regulation:

OBLIGATION OR SUSTAINABILITY INSTRUMENT? POMCA are basin use and management plans which set out to maintain a social and environmental balance. Results to date have been poor.

PHOTO: personal file

Solo en

By César Augusto Ruiz Agudelo

Socioeconomic Director, Conservation International Foundation - Colombia.

ACCORDING TO the Ministry

of the Environment, a Basin Management and Regulation Plan (POMCA, in Spanish) is the instrument that is used for planning and executing works and treatment aimed at maintaining a balance between social and economic exploitation of resources, and at conserving the physical-biotic structure of a basin and, in particular, its water


resources. It is drawn up in order to halt environmental deterioration, which affects the quality of the country’s natural resources and hence their availability in different regions. There is a need for a Management and Regulation Plan to be drawn up for Colombia’s hydrographic basins, in conjunction with institutions that are members of the National Environmental System (SINA), headed by the Regional Autonomous Corporations, as established by the Ministry of the Environment in the technical guide for drawing up POMCA that it issued in 2013. Numerous attempts have been made to draw up these POMCA since 2002. According to CEPAL, while 271 were in the process of being drawn up in Colombia in 2011, concrete progress was reported on only 15. 110 POMCA had been adopted, but only 33 had reached the implementation stage, and although there were 58 joint commissions, only one was functioning. These figures are disappointing, if it







were in the process of being drawn up in Colombia, concrete progress was reported on only


is remembered that the POMCA is the most important socio-environmental management mechanism in the country. Decree 1640 of 2012 sought to correct some of the problems that had arisen with drawing up these instruments, and the figures have unquestionably improved at this level, but as far as implementation is concerned, the results are still very poor. Some critical situations which illustrate the faults that exist with socio-environmental management and regulation in Colombia are detailed below. 1. Most of the title deeds authorized and mining applications submitted cover, to a large extent, protected zones and moorland (122,000 hectares authorized on moorland and 35,000 hectares in protected areas, in 2011). 2. Forests continue to be lost (an average of 300,000 hectares per year, in 2011).

PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Álvaro Tavera


Natural habitats are still being fragmented or polluted because of inappropriate farming practices. 4. One negative result of all this is a scarcity of information about, and knowledge of, the structure and composition of biodiversity in Colombia. If the POMCA instrument operated correctly, these shameful situations should not arise. This gives rise to a question: What are the technical, human, institutional and political barriers that make an instrument for regulating the country’s hydrographical basins incapable of producing positive results? The first argument is propounded in the article entitled “Freshwater ecoregions of Colombia: a territorial planning proposal for the trans-Andean region and part of the Orinoco and Amazon basins”, which was published in 2016 in the magazine Biota Colombiana. The authors explain that the country 3.

is very heterogeneous because of the relief of the Andes, which combines a complex hydrographic network with different geomorphological and physiographic systems and typologies. Basins have been classified according to water dividing lines and ordered by sections rather than with a systemic vision. The authors maintain that no regional freshwater classification exists in Colombia that is based on overall criteria, and this makes any management and implementation of a basin regulation that is consistent with the contextual diversity even more complex. The second argument relates to the tendency to homogenize our socio-environmental megadiversity. Although there is a national guide to drawing up POMCA, ecological regionalization is a central tool for understanding the territor y and defining appropriate conservation and management strategies.

Natural habitats are still being fragmented or polluted because of inappropriate farming practices.

No two basins are the same in Colombia, but they are still being regulated around segmented themes that are then not fully integrated, and there is no systemic vision. One of the biggest challenges in ensuring that these instruments have a positive effect on basin management and conservation is understanding the overall mechanisms and processes behind them. If this is done, POMCA will be effective and they will become an instrument for adapting territories and making them more socio-environmentally resilient. A third motive is related to human nature, and brings together two elements: willingness, and the principle of reality. The former refers to environmental authorities failing to draw up POMCA in a comprehensive, overall manner so that they are technically sound. As far as reality is concerned, it is hoped that programs and projects can be proposed that can actually be carried out, because they are in line with both the socio-environmental realities of the territory concerned and the respective environmental authorities’ budgets. An analysis of these numerous dimensions will help to understand the true potential and current limitations of the approach to ecosystem services, which prioritizes strategic areas in terms of conservation, since this enables formal support to be obtained for the socio-ecological management and regulation of the country. In turn, it will also promote a better-informed and more conscious participation by the local parties involved and allow new economic and policy instruments to be incorporated that will complement management targets in Colombia’s basins.



PHOTOS: Guney Maku Durán


A group of researchers is carrying out a sustainable food program with the indigenous Jimain community that lives on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

The Jimain indigenous community lives near Pueblo Bello and Valledupar.


THE SIERRA Nevada de Santa

Mar ta has been home to the Tayronas for around two thousand years. Their descendants, divided into four traditional groups (Arhuaco, Kogui, Kankuamo and Wiwa) inhabit this territory that covers an area of 21,158 km2 and extends into parts of three provinces: Cesar, Magdalena and La Guajira. The indigenous Jimain community, which has around 600 inhabitants and belongs to the Arhuaco reservation, lives in the foothills of the huge mountain


on the side that overlooks Cesar province, near the towns of Pueblo Bello and Valledupar, at a height of 380 meters above sea level. Deforestation and the relocation of its settlements have resulted in the community being unable to produce its own food. Juan Carlos Durán and Rafael Mindiola, two zootechnicians who belong to this ethnic group, were aware of the problem and set themselves the target of guaranteeing sustainable food production for their community.

“We thought of a friendly strategy that would keep to traditions and not distort the ancient concept of food production. And so it was that by investigating and reading we came across the model called Integrated Agro-Aquiculture. This includes fish production systems, and involves them in traditional food production techniques”, Durán, the project coordinator, told Pensamiento Urbano. With support from the Polish Embassy and the UN-ACUICTIO research group run by professor


Adriana Muñoz at the National University, a fundraising process commenced, together with an awareness campaign among the ethnic group. The initiative, which has been implemented successfully in various countries by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), got under way in December 2015. From this starting point, the group began to introduce a sustainable production system for foods with an animal and vegetable origin that would provide the community with high quality proteins and thus help combat the malnutrition that had mercilessly afflicted the inhabitants, notably children. Field work commenced with a study of local conditions (population and territory) which, according to Durán, resulted in their identifying not only the fact that collective work is one of the people’s greatest strengths, but also that there is sufficient water in the area and that the traditional vegetable garden grew only carbohydrates such as yams, plantains, maize and beans, plus a number of non-edible sub-products. “We installed two fish ponds in the vegetable garden and filled

The National University recently rewarded the research group for the results it has achieved and guaranteed that the social work will continue for at least one more year.

them with water and fish, so that the community could visualize them as another crop. As part of this system, we take water from the ponds and irrigate the vegetable garden, recirculating it and thus improving the amount of nutrients that reach plants. Meanwhile, leftovers from the vegetable garden, such as from cassava and yams, are removed, dried and transformed into an alternative diet for the fish”, he said. As a result, they have managed to catch fish in this 280-square-meter area that weigh as much as 300 grams. Initially, 600 fish, mainly cachama and bocachico, were introduced, and these have become a source not only of animal protein in people’s diet but also of family integration and of learning about their culture for students. “Firstly, the project has become a living classroom of ancient and traditional wisdom, and of the outside world. Secondly, it is a warning that we have to produce our food and cannot go on depending on a monthly supply from an outside organization. And finally, our own food production practices are improving because sustainable systems have been introduced”, he concluded. It has been far from easy to make these achievements. The failure of more than a dozen initiatives in the past had led to mistrust, and in order to get the Jimain community to become involved, the research group eliminated the word ‘project’ from the lexicon, because of its inherent economic implications, and convinced the people to take on this social work because “it’s their own”.

They have managed to catch fish in this 280-squaremeter area that weigh as much as 300 grams.

The National University recently rewarded the research group for the results it has achieved and guaranteed that the social work will continue for at least one more year. In the second stage, the academic support for which is linked to Durán’s research for a master’s degree, the aim of the work is to measure the social, environmental and economic impacts using mathematical modellings. The long-term target is for this social initiative in the Arhuaco reservation on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to become an agro-ecological production model that can be replicated in other parts of the country, one that produces food security in its community and also provides funds for introducing fish transformation processes, enriching diets, purchasing young fish and selling surpluses.


future PHOTO: Findeter


Despite being one of the most fortunate countries in terms of water resources, Colombia has a problem when it comes to guaranteeing a continuous supply in some regions. How important is the education sector, and how can it provide solutions?

PHOTO: personal file

By Jéssica Bohórquez A.

Civil engineer. Doctorate student at the University of Adelaide, Australia



ACCORDING TO USGS Water Science School estimates, there is a fixed volume of almost 1,400 million cubic kilometers of water in the world, although a mere 0.7 per cent of this astonishing amount is fresh water and even this is not evenly distributed, in geographical terms. In 2003, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that while countries like Kuwait had ten cubic meters of water per inhabitant per year, others,

such as Canada, had 100,000 cubic meters. Colombia was among the most fortunate countries in this respect, occupying sixth place on the list with 50,000 cubic meters per inhabitant per year. Although this might be thought to be good news for its 48 million inhabitants, since they would not have to worry about water shortages, IDEAM reported a six per cent decline in the amount of water in 2015. If Colombia is the country with the sixth highest amount of water in the world, why do thousands of children die because of a lack of water? If the answer to this question could be given in one word, that word would be ‘management’. From the research point of view, there is clearly a weak link


There are various alternatives, from the administrative and political points of view, but it is vital that we concentrate on the importance of the direct link with the education sector. One obvious solution to this problem is to provide more further education on the subject of water. A study of the list of courses at this level reveals that around 90 per cent of them focus on technical aspects of water management, but if comprehensive, overall management is to be achieved, professionals are also needed in other areas, such as economics, law, public health, finance and commercial structuring, all of which are vital to guaranteeing a drinking water supply that functions correctly.

PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Tadeo Martínez

in the chain that leads to people having a supply of drinking water: education about water resources has been insufficient, and in some cases non-existent. A quick search for further education courses on the subject shows that in the country’s five main cities there are a mere seven technology programs, the same number of undergraduate courses, ten master’s degree programs, 14 specializations and three doctorate programs. Significant progress has been made in the fields of primary and secondary education in terms of making the young aware of the need to conserve water resources in the future. This new, collective awareness will help promote better water management, although all these efforts could come to nothing if the subject is not given the importance it warrants by further education.

PHOTO: Archivo Semana - León Darío Peláez


Multidisciplinary research should be promoted that sets out to find an overall solution to the country’s problems.

Colombia needs the public and private sectors to cooperate in improving the skills of professionals employed in managing water resources. In particular, there is a need for more academic training programs so that students who are starting out on their further education in the short and medium terms can be trained in this field. The education sector should use research groups to improve management of the country’s water resources. People frequently fail to take into account the role that academia can play in solving problems, and they forget that the goal of all research is to improve their quality of life. There therefore appears to a huge gulf on this point. More research work about institutional structures and management techniques is essential for countries like Colombia. This

is an enormous challenge, in view of the current lack of coordination between the different parties involved, although there are many ways that academia can help improve the situation. Universities should promote multidisciplinary research that sets out to find an overall solution to problems in different parts of the country, with support and advice from leading education establishments worldwide in each discipline. There is unquestionably a need to improve the management of water resources in order to guarantee that everyone in the country has a supply of drinking water, and to this end, education plays a fundamental role in numerous areas, not just in technical matters. Colombia needs to offer more further education courses relating to water management, and its academics should adopt a multidisciplinary approach as they focus their work on solving current problems. Otherwise, not only will we cease to feature on the list of fortunate countries in terms of water resources, we will also appear on the black list of countries in the world where there is a shortage of this vital liquid.


2015 IDEAM reported a six per cent decline in the amount of water in the country.



PHOTO: Parques Naturales - Manuela Cano Burgos


80 % of Bogotá’s water supply comes from Chingaza moor, one of the most important protected areas in the country for the preservation and conservation of water resources.

Cundinamarca Autonomous Regional Corporation (CAR) has warned that there are only around a thousand Andean bears left in all Colombia.


IN THE second half of the year,

flowers bloom on the moors. On Chingaza moor, each of the over a thousand species has its own flowering time - the reproduction strategy for ensuring that pollinizers take their seeds elsewhere - and, from July to October, the highest mountains resemble a garden full of sunflowers. Their relatives, the frailejones, are also in bloom during this period. And it is possible to enjoy the splendor of the sietecueros angelito, because more water is available at that time of year C hingaza moor, which is protected as a National Park, covers an area of 76,000 hectares in Cundinamarca province, including part of the municipalities of


Fómeque, Choachí, La Calera, Guasca , Junín, Gachalá and M e d i n a , a n d i n M e t a p ro v ince (San Juanito, El Calvario, Restrepo and Cumaral). Five per cent of the park is in the basin of the River Bogotá, and the remaining 95 per cent in the Orinoco basin. Normally, all water would flow down into the Andean foothills above the plains, but the Chingaza system, which was built to meet the demand for water in the capital, transfers water between the Orinoco and the Bogotá basins. The natural cycle is altered slightly, in order to achieve the 16 m3/sec. that this ecosystem supplies toward the 22 m3/sec. that Bogotá currently requires.

Chingaza Park ranges from 800 to 4,020 meters above sea level. Its ecosystems consist of temperate and cold forest, sub-moorland and moorland. The latter is where the water cycle commences. Rivers form in the highest areas, and then pass through HighAndean and Andean forests before reaching the lowlands, where they eventually flow into the oceans. The cycle is then completed when seawater is carried back on moist air currents to the moors, where it falls as rain. Chingaza moor has an annual rainfall figure of 4,000 mm. The water route to Bogotá begins in Seca Lake, which is also the source of the River Chuza, the main source of water for the reservoir of

the same name. The Chuza has its origin in Seca and Verde Lakes, from where it continues to the reservoir. It then joins the waters of the Frio and La Playa rivers and all the streams in the area. A 42-km system of tunnels takes the water by gravity from the reservoir to the town of La Calera, where it is stored in San R afael reser voir before being treated at the Francisco Wiesner plant. Sedimentation, coagulation and chlorination take place there, to make the water drinkable. It is then redistributed to 80 per cent of Bogotá and part of the surrounding region. In an interview with Pensamiento Urbano, Chingaza Park Water Management professional Jerson González explained that forests play a key role in regulating water in major basins like these, because they help to administer water and to capture it from mist and air currents laden with abundant moisture. “Some of these currents come from the Orinoco, while others come up the Amazon. It is therefore the forests that receive all this water that falls on Chingaza moor, and our flora species then retain it”, the expert said. This is why, without these forests, it would not be possible to capture the water that is carried on the air currents. The

Without these forests, it would not be possible to capture the water that is carried on air currents from the Orinoco and Amazon.

moorland vegetation captures the water that falls as rain, stores it, and gradually administers it at times when there is less rain. The frailejones on this moor are very adaptable, since they have a sort of ‘hairiness’ which helps them not only to trap water but also to protect themselves from the extreme conditions that prevail there. On a sunny day the temperature can reach 25°C, and then at night or in the early morning it can fall to -2°C. Mosses, lichens and bryophytes also play an important part in regulating water resources. No direct water treatment is carried out at Chingaza. “What we do is guarantee certain conservation characteristics, which means that not just Bogotá but also 11 communities near Chingaza and a number of important towns in the foothills to the plains can have a reliable water supply”, the environmental specialist explained. The good quality of the water from Chingaza means that less treatment is required, and hence lower costs are incurred. As part of strategies to foster ecotourism and bring in visitors, the Suasie trail has been formed. The name comes from the Chibcha words ‘Sua’, meaning sun, and ‘’Sie’, water. As visitors climb the 122 meters that the trail rises, they can note the transition from High-Andean forest to sub-moorland, and they can see some of the 400 species of bird that are a feature of the National Park. Numerous flora species can also be seen on the trail, and these gradually change with altitude and serve as habitats for other species. At the highest point on the trail there is a viewpoint, from where

PHOTO: Parques Naturales - Robinson Galindo


Chuza reservoir, which was created for the purpose of storing 220 million cubic meters of water to guarantee supplies for Bogotá, can be seen. When the last El Niño phenomenon occurred, in 2015, causing the biggest drought in 30 years, according to NASA, and making the first few months of 2016 the hottest in history, many parts of Colombia were left without water or were subjected to strict rationing. Bogotá, however, was not affected, because sufficient water was held in reserve at Chingaza. This is a good enough reason in itself for stating that caring for water is not just a matter of saving it, since it is also necessary to preserve where it comes from.

Moorland orchids help regulate hydrological systems.



good investment Skilvirk is a system that promotes the efficient and sustainable use of water, based on recycling graywater. SKILVIRK SYSTEM


The system consists of channels that take graywater to tanks that filter out sediments and residues.





AFTER OBSERVING how people in various houses in Bogotá and Villavicencio saved water by collecting it manually, Jesús Fernando Cubillos, a 35-yearold business manager and professional digital electronic engineering technologist, had the idea of creating a system that was capable of treating waste water so that it could be used later in toilets. “What families were doing was using buckets to collect the water used in washing machine rinsing cycles or what was left over after a shower, so it could be used to clean floors and bathrooms. This helped them cut the cost of their water bills”, Cubillos, who took advantage of an incubation program aimed at university entrepreneurs seven years ago and began to develop his business idea, explained to Pensamiento Urbano. It is a mechatronic system consisting of channels that take graywater to tanks that filter sediments, greases and bacteria from it before finally sending the treated water to a tank that distributes it to all the toilets in the house. Purification is considered to be the fundamental phase of the whole process, because unless this water is purified, it can give

off bad smells, cause stains, and even have harmful health effects. From the academic project, he moved on to installing a real prototype in his home more than a year ago. Three families live there - 11 persons in all and they have benefited from lower bills, since the system has enabled them to make a 40 per cent saving on what they used to spend in a month. Whereas previously they consumed an average of 55,000 liters of water, the figure has now fallen to around 34,000; their total saving in 12 months was 67,000 liters. Apart from the facilities it offers, this tool is aimed at saving water in cities and counteracting a lack of awareness about drinking water consumption, since the few commitments to improving the situation that exist deal with the problems associated with saving, rather than sustainable strategies. A conservation culture is thus fostered, whereby homes contribute to achieving environmental indicators by applying technology, not only to improve human comfort but also to maintain a balance between what is functional and what is sustainable. LARGE SCALE

Ministry of Housing, City and Territory Decree 1285 of 2015 stipulates that construction companies are obliged to follow sustainable construction guidelines, especially water and energy saving policies in buildings. It was precisely in this field that Cubillos spent six years developing a system called Skilvirk Legacy, designed for premises that house large groups of people, such as

PHOTO: Carlos Vargas


JesĂşs Fernando Cubillos

Director General, Vaten Lifid.

The prototype resulted in an increase of only


in the electricity bill in the whole year.

military barracks, which need 35,000 liters of water per day to cater for around 1,200 people. The only difference is that this model can be controlled from any device that has internet access. In terms of parts, it consists of a satin-finish stainless-steel filter that separates out grease and sediment, and high-efficiency motors that guarantee low energy consumption. WHERE IS THE CHALLENGE?

The cost of the tool varies, depending on the size of the premises. For a standard apartment with two bathrooms and a laundry area the investment is COP 7,000,000, excluding civil works. This is why it is designed for new buildings, so that the builder can install the water pipes and Vaten Lifid, the company responsible for the system, can then get everything working. This does not mean that the system cannot be used in old buildings, however. Although the system is available on the market, sales have been minimal because people

find the cost high. However, studies show that the long-term saving, compared to the initial investment , is much hig her, bearing in mind that the investment is recouped in a period of five to six years and during the first five years the user is covered against all kinds of maintenance; the system also has a useful life of 40 years. From a macro viewpoint, the initiative could have major benefits at national level. If it were to be implemented throughout the country, Colombia would save four and a half times the capacity of Chingaza reservoir, which can contain 220,000,000 m3 in a single year. This would help reduce the unfair distribution of water, since whereas a person in a big city uses between 4 and 12 liters of drinking water every time he flushes the toilet, in areas like La Guajira this quantity, in practice, is the ration that a family of five has to make do with for a whole day. Graywater recycling systems are therefore currently an alternative that various public and private companies have studied, with a view to their having a positive impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that the government has signed up to with the UN, especially number six: “Achieve availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all�. For the moment, Skilvirk has a presence on various platforms, some of them international (nomination for the Innovator under 35 Spain awards), the aim being to ally technology with social and sustainable development.



related to water”

PHOTO: Getty Images - Chris So

Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs and Sherpa to the UN/WB High Level Panel on Water, talked with Pensamiento Urbano about climate change and the world’s water resources.

Henk Ovink, Netherlands Special Envoy for Water Affairs.



WATER HA S always featured prominently in people’s lives in the Netherlands. In the Middle Ages the country had to build a whole drainage system to prevent the country from being flooded by the sea and the rivers that cross it, and over the course of history it developed into a port and shipping power. European trade passes through its maritime territory, and its navigators conquered the world. Water is so important in the country that it has a Special Envoy for Water Affairs who, as a member of the Dutch cabinet, represents the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment and the Ministry of Economic and International Affairs. Henk Ovink, who is considered to be a worldwide expert in hydraulic engineering and water management, was elected to this post in 2015. In an interview with Pensamiento Urbano, Ovink referred to his work and the worldwide importance of water resources, and he mentioned the cooperation project between his country and Colombia that is being carried out in Valle del Cauca province. PENSAMIENTO URBANO: WHAT DOES YOUR JOB AS SPECIAL


PHOTO: iStock

Holland is considered to be ‘the land of water’, because of the lessons it gives the rest of the world on managing water and waste.


I am responsible for the following three issues: helping increase awareness of water and people’s understanding of how complex challenges relating to water resources around the world can be; reinforcing and improving existing water management projects and the Dutch Delta disaster response approach throughout the world; and helping to prevent disasters and setting in motion and carrying out a global program of innovative water resilience projects in conjunction with financial institutions, research organizations,

businesses, foundations, NGOs and governments.

2050, it is in cities where life and assets are at risk.







Globally, urbanization gives us countless opportunities to grow: prosperity, innovation, emancipation and education. At the same time, population growth and climate change endanger our cities and their inhabitants, as well as societies, the economy and ecology. Our urban future is at risk. With an estimated 75 per cent increase in the world’s urban population by H.O.:

The cost of climate change adaptation measures will be between

15 a 20 thousand million dollars per year in Latin America and the Caribbean.

H.O.: According to the World Economic Forum, failure to adapt to climate change is the second biggest global risk facing the world’s economic system. By 2050, the assets of the principal ten places in the world that are at risk will total more than 1.7 billion. The response to the emergency focuses on international agreements like the Paris International Climate Change Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals,


turning those who flee into climate refugees, water refugees.

(United Nations) and bilateral action and commitment.











Water is at the heart of our uncertain future. It is principally through water that we feel the impact of climate change. 90 per cent of natural disasters are related to water, since both floods and droughts affect societies, increase uncertainty, leave many people refugees, and cause wars and conflicts. While 50 per cent of the world’s underground water reserves are far from being the straw that broke the camel’s back, the quality of surface water is endangered. Climate risks associated with water affect food, energy, big cities, and environmental systems.

H.O.: Most countries can neutralize

H.O.: Latin America is a region with plentiful supplies of water, but there are contrasts. It is home to almost 31 per cent of the world’s freshwater resources, but it also has large arid and semi-arid areas with recurring droughts, from Mexico to Chile. Water shortages are expected to increase in various areas because of climate change, even in the Andes, where the melted glaciers will have a big effect on the water supply. The full impact of these changes is still not known, but experts agree that the changes associated with water

the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the New Urban Agenda. It is imperative that we begin to reduce the risk.


Water shortages are expected to increase in various areas because of climate change, even in the Andes, where the melted glaciers will have a big effect on the water supply.

7,700 of Holland’s total area of 41,500 km2 are water.




PHOTOS: iStock

changes are severe and complex, with many interdependencies and multiple escalation levels. Our world is urban. Large sectors of the population live in low-lying deltas, and their security and wellbeing depend on the interior of the basin, where the quality of nature, ecology and water is determined. The poorest people tend to live in the most vulnerable places, where natural disasters become humanitarian disasters that can lead to geopolitical conflicts. Frontier waters increase these tensions, while droughts encourage migrations,

the adverse impact of shortages by taking action to ensure that water resources are distributed and used efficiently. It goes without saying that all the responsibilities and the interrelations between them are highly complex, but they can convert weaknesses into opportunities. If everything is linked together, a qualitative contribution can have a highly effective and positive wave effect, bringing with it solutions to problems that arise later. Strong international cooperation is crucial. We need multilateral


supply will be among the earliest and most dramatic. P.U.: HOW CAN THE IMPACT OF THIS PROCESS ON SOCIETY BE LESSENED? H.O.: An

annual, regional investment will be needed, in order to avoid seeing the region’s poorest and most vulnerable population groups fall back into poverty. Ede Ijjasz-Vásquez, the World Bank’s regional Director for Sustainable Development, is of the opinion that the cost of climate change adaptation measures will be between 15 and 20 thousand million dollars per year in L atin America and the Caribbean.


early warning systems is extremely important. These provide prompt, effective information from recognized institutions that enables people who are in danger to adopt measures, prevent or reduce their risk, and prepare for an effective response. The Dutch Research Institute (Deltares) has considerable experience in developing and implementing early warning systems all over the world, including in Colombia.

thanks to help from institutional partners, research organizations and companies, and financing until 2050. This has been collaborative work right from the start, involving a real, hand-in-hand connection with local communities and Dutch citizens, because the proposed programs, projects and processes are in the implementation phase, and the local impact will therefore be more evident.

The recent Irma, Harvey and José hurricanes have shown that climate change is getting worse.

P.U.: DOES A SIMILAR MODEL EXIST IN COLOMBIA? H . O . : Ye s . T h e F l o o d R i s k Management Master Plan in Valle del Cauca province consists of cooperation between the regional environmental authority, CVC water authority in Cali, and Dutch Water Authorities (DWA). The ‘Dutch Room for the River Concept’ has been applied in this particular region, and this concentrates on specific water governance issues, such as the restoration of Sonso Lagoon and maintenance of the Cali Dyke. These activities are carried out in the context of the Delta cooperation agreement between Colombia and the Netherlands.

training scientists, and will also add to knowledge about matters relating to water through courses aimed at water professionals and decision-makers. P.U.: WHAT OTHER PUBLICS NEED TRAINING? H.O.: Water



Dutch Delta Program is one of our best and most recent examples in the Netherlands. This tackles various principles: executable programmatic projects, and also institutional capacity in all sectors and layers of government,

Increasing awareness about water begins with education. There is a need to improve training about this resource at all levels, if we want to face the challenges it represents. Water education should go beyond teaching hydrological sciences and be both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. This approach will advance scientific knowledge by


Latin America is home to almost

31 %

of the world’s freshwater resources.

education should also extend to the media, so that they can inform the public on these matters, accurately and effectively. And so that we do not overlook the young, our next generation, we have the ‘Battle of the Beach’ challenge for children. They fight the waves with sandcastles, and there are prizes for the strongest and the most beautiful, and the ones where there has been most cooperation. Safety and quality with a collaborative approach: this is the Dutch culture of living with water, and nobody is ever too young or too old to start.


Water crisis:

A MULTIPLE RISK World Water Council (WWC) President Benedito Braga believes that universal access to drinking water and sanitation can mean an annual 0.5 per cent growth in the global economy.

WITH 122 votes in favor and 41

against, on July 29, 2010 the United Nations declared access to drinking water and sanitation a “fundamental right”. This decision came at a time when, according to a UN and World Health Organization report, there were 884 million people in the world without access to drinking water and 2,500 million with no sanitation. Seven years on, the figures show that there has been an i m p ro v e m e n t , w i t h t h e U N reporting that today there are 600 million people with no access to drinking water and around



two thousand million without sanitation. In an interview with Pensamiento Urbano, World Water Council (WWC) President Benedito Braga explained the reasons for this transformation. “We have been making more and more progress in the world with water security. Water security means people having a reliable supply of good quality water available in acceptable quantities for health and economic activities, together with an acceptable risk level. In other words, it implies protecting society from the dangers associated with floods and droughts, which will be getting

more pronounced all the time, and guaranteeing that people have access to water, thereby contributing to their social and economic development”, he said. However, despite the results, around 35 per cent of the world’s population are still affected, notably in Africa where, Braga explained, the natural resources exist but not the infrastructure to manage them in the best way. In contrast, European countries have mostly resolved the issue because they started working on it much earlier. T he problem als o exists on other continents, the WWC

PHOTO: personal file

PHOTO: César David Martínez


Benedito Braga

President of the World Water Council (WWC) and Sanitation and Water Resources Secretary to the State of Sao Paulo.

President pointed out. “Latin America is half-way there, because the situation is extremely unequal even within individual countries. There are areas where great progress has been made, and others where there is still a lot to do”, he said. Against this background, he went on to say that ensuring universal access to drinking water and sanitation for this portion of the world’s population and also people in other affected territories represents a global challenge, and meeting it requires interaction between numerous, diverse variables. “If we are to progress, there is a need for infrastructure, and this can only be achieved through longterm investment. It means that in the coming decades we will require more infrastructure, an efficient use of resources, planning, and stronger governance. In other words, sector progress implies three ‘i’s: institutions (governance, regulation and suppor ting organizations), infrastructure, and investment”, he added. In a medium-term scenario where, according to the United Nations, the world will have around ten thousand million inhabitants in the year 2050, the figure for the investment that is required ends in a large number of zeros. Braga refers to a World Bank estimate which states that guaranteeing universal access to these public services requires an annual capital injection of five hundred thousand million dollars until 2030. “The direct benefit of achieving global water security would be a 0.5 per cent growth in the world economy, which means an extra five hundred thousand million per year in wealth being generated.


million people have no access to drinking water and around two thousand million are without sanitation.

It is also important to stress the direct relationship between water and people’s health and wellbeing. For every Brazilian real invested in water and sanitation, there is a saving of between 4 and 10 Brazilian reales in the health sector”, he explained. After determining the costbenefit ratio of the investment in these public ser vices, and based on the premise that they are fundamental questions for the planet, Braga considers that there is a need for governments, companies, NGOs, the academic sector and promotion organizations to join forces in order to guarantee that people have access to drinking water and sanitation. He explained that in view of the capital that this global project requires, a number of scenarios have arisen, such as the World Water Forum, promoted by WWC, where not only can the importance of this resource to the planet be discussed, but also intelligent solutions and strategies that will enable available resources to be exploited better and fast progress to be made. “The water crisis is not just a threat in itself, it is also a multiple risk that involves health, food production and energy generation and which has a direct bearing on political and social stability. Overcoming these challenges demands leadership at the highest levels of government all over the world”, he concluded. It is to be hoped that this exhortation will not result in a ‘ Water War ’, as the popular uprising against the privatization of water supplies in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was called at the beginning of the century.




City Hall and the company that supplies the Spanish city with drinking water have introduced innovative methods for reducing its hardness and cleaning it continually.

IT IS not for nothing that the

PHOTO: Valencia Town Hall

Spanish city of Valencia is called the capital of the Turia. Life in the city with the third highest population on the Iberian peninsula, after Madrid and Barcelona, has always depended on water. The very same water that allows foreign trade to and from both its business park and the whole country to enter and leave its port. The very same water that killed people and caused substantial damage in October 1957, when the torrent in the Turia flooded the city. The very same



water that gave rise to the biggest green zone in the region, which some journalists have compared to Central Park in New York. Valencia’s relationship with this substance consisting of two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen - H2O - is more connected with its past. The Water Tribunal, where local inhabitants have traditionally settled problems relating to irrigating rural areas and which has been declared by UNESCO to be part of the cultural and intangible heritage of

mankind, has existed in the area since feudal times. There have been situations which show that the city’s love affair with water has brought problems, such as when the local inhabitants and tourists consume it. In an inter view with Pensamiento Urbano, Vicent Manuel Sarrià I Morell, delegate councilor for the Valencia City Hall Comprehensive Water Cycle, clarified the perceptions and prejudices that have arisen and become widespread in the country. “Valencia’s water used to be notorious because of its poor quality, but that’s not so. It’s one thing that it tastes better or worse, but in our region the water has a high calcium and lime content which makes it taste stronger than in other Spanish cities, and this strong taste has weakened as a result of various processes to make it drinkable. The hardness of the water is not a sanitation problem, rather a question of taste and flavor”, he said. Bearing in mind this fact caused by the geological conditions


“The quality of the water’s taste has been improving in recent years, but it is still harder than Madrid water”, said Manel Sarrià.

of the soil in the region, City Hall is taking action aimed at reducing the hardness of the water. To this end, it has introduced advanced treatment techniques like inverse osmosis and the use of carbon filters, and is also constantly conducting tests to reduce its intensity. “We are working on improving the flavor, but more as a matter of aesthetics and taste than healthiness”, he pointed out. Although hard water harms electrical appliances and the water supply network, the authorities are absolutely clear that it is totally suitable for human consumption. On this point, World Health Organization studies in the eighties ruled out any suggestion that drinking it has any adverse effects on the organism. “The organoleptic quality of the water’s taste has gradually been improving in recent years, but it is still harder than Madrid water because their water comes from the Sierra and has a better flavor”, he added. But something that has led to concern in Valencia in recent

decades is the quality of the underground water that reaches the drinking water plants and is then consumed in nearby towns. Studies of the 23,100-km river network conducted during that period by the Spanish Institute of Geology and Mining confirmed that it had been degraded because of factors related to population and production dynamics. “Nitrates were indeed a sanitary problem. It arose in many of our towns, although not so much in the city itself, due to the excessive quantity of fertilizers that were being poured into the aquifers, and these increased the nitrate level in wells. The Valencia metropolitan area is basically served by the Turia and Júcar rivers, and the water that reaches the drinking water plants therefore doesn’t have that problem”, added Sarrià. Just as with the quest for a better flavor, state-of-the-art techniques are also being used to clean water. “Disinfecting crude water using ultraviolet rays is part of our strategy of adapting to new

La Presa drinking water plant in the town of Manises. It has supplied the city of Valencia, Spain, since 1962.

“The organoleptic quality of the water’s taste has gradually been improving, but it is still harder than Madrid water because their water comes from the Sierra and has a pleasanter flavor”. treatment technologies, and it is being done successfully in our drinking water plants”, he said. In 2011, when the lamps that emit the rays were installed, this was a relatively unknown technique in Europe and North America. The results have been effective. The councilor explained that this type of methodology “practically eliminates the pathogenic elements that exist in surface water and are not eliminated using traditional chlorine-based disinfectants. It also prevents unwanted substances appearing in treated water, such as residues from the chlorination process. We therefore consider that the experience is a very positive one”. But the City Hall and water company commitment to improve the drinking water service for the local inhabitants goes much fur ther. Not only does the water comply with Spanish quality regulations, the city has become a worldwide reference point in the field of remote meter reading as an alternative to the traditional manual reading. Water will therefore continue to be a basic feature of the history of Valencia, and it will have a pleasant flavor.


PHOTO: iStock

In San Andres, the Management Plan not only reviews matters like what should be done with rainwater, water from wells and seawater, it also concerns itself with system operation and sustainability.

A Management Plan FOR SAN ANDRÉS AND PROVIDENCIA This planning instrument which, for the first time in Colombia, focuses on water resources, was presented to the community on July 13 last.

THIS YEAR, Colombia became

one of only three countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to h ave i n t ro d uce d a Wate r Resources Management Plan. Twenty - four years after the governments of Peru and Bolivia first employed this visionar y


FINDETER 68 / 69

planning instrument in order to safeguard the fragile water s y s t e m o n t h e c e n t ra l h i g h plains of South America, which was being affected by intensive human activities, the first such instrument in Colombia came into effect on July 13 last.

T hat d ay, as par t of the national government’s strategy for serving the San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina archipelago, former Financiera del Desarrollo Territorial (Findeter) President Luis Fernando Arboleda presented the Water Resources Management Plan to the island community. It is envisaged that the project will result in this territory, which has an area of 52.5 square kilometers, being provided for the first time with a comprehensive, long-lasting water management system. It is expected to operate for 30 years.

The first

17,3 kilometers of the sewage system have already been completed.

The Plan aims to go beyond long-term planning that focuses solely on infrastructure.

Colombia, Peru and Bolivia all have a Water Resources Management Plan.

Guaranteeing a long-term improvement in the drinking water supply and basic sanitation service for the archipelago’s 77,759 inhabitants, according to DANE population projections, as well as the funds that will be required over this period (calculated at 1.1 thousand million pesos) will only be possible because, among other things, the Management Plan is firmer and has a wider scope than the Master Plan, the system that is currently being used in the country in the field of domestic public services. Why is a Water Resources Management Plan being used? The answer is that it aims to go beyond long-term planning that focuses solely on infrastructure and additionally include all activities related to the process of meeting water supply and sewage needs in this offshore Caribbean territory. T h e p ro j e c t i s f i n a n c e d through a national government credit from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). On the ground, the National Disaster Risk Management Unit (UNGRD), which is attached to the Presidency o f the Re p ublic , contracte d Findeter to provide the regional unit not only with the funds but also with technical advice for the projects and assistance while they are being executed. SUSTAINABILITY AND SCOPE

What are the detailed characteristics of a Management Plan? Unlike a Master Plan, which ends with the investment infrastructure plans, it is more comprehensive in terms of resource management. Not only does it prioritize the construction of civil works, it also covers other aspects of the process, such as

PHOTO: Findeter


By Alejandro Callejas Technical Vice-President, Findeter

factor reviews, including water sources and demand. In addition to reviewing matters like what should be done with rainwater, water from wells and seawater, as the Master Plan does, the Mana gement P lan also concerns itself with system operation and sustainability. Furthermore, it takes another fundamental point into account, namely involving the community affected by the works in all phases of the process. As far as water catchment and management are concerned, for example, this planning instrument takes into consideration the types of investment that are needed, such as in desalinization facilities and management of the island’s aquifers. At the same time, it concerns itself with the resources needed for the use, treatment and distribution of rainwater. It also concerns itself with prov iding funds for stat ion administration matters and the whole service that is going to be rendered; it offers conditions for reaching agreements with the community on social matters and, in its capacity as a tool that looks

to the future from the perspective of the present, it analyzes what demand will be in 5, 20 and 25 years’ time. In short, when it comes to comparing the two models, the Management Plan far outstrips the Master Plan. In the project that is being carried out on the archipelago, the instrument analyzes the types of sources of financing that could be accessed over the course of time to cover investments during the next three decades. Possible sources, in this case, include the General Participation System, royalties, provincial funds, and funds from the operation. An overview of the first six months since the Management Plan was implemented shows that progress has been made on expanding the installed infrastructure capacity for setting up the drinking water supply and basic sanitation service on the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina. The first 17.3 kilometers o f t h e s e w a g e s y s t e m h av e already been completed, and the pumping station has been erected. Similarly, the designs for the 50 liters per second desalinization p l a n t h ave b e e n co n t rac te d and a start has been made on building it, and a completion date sometime in 2018 is envisaged. The new drinking water networks that will supply rural areas are being planned, and contracts are being arranged for the raised storage tanks that will be able to hold a thousand cubic meters. Colombia is entering the age of Management Plans for water resources, and it is doing so in an emblematic place.


PHOTO: Findeter


SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION AXES The Blue Line project, structured by Findeter in Montería, exemplifies the potential that exists in these territories for them to become focal, structural points of transportation systems around the world. By Ana María Palau Alvargonzalez

Planning Vice-President, Findeter

Juan Manuel Robledo CIUDAT and Sustainable Mobility Leader, Findeter

Diana Galarza Molina

Sustainability and New Business Management Consultant, Findeter

ACCORDING TO the Global Water

Partnership, Colombia has some of the most abundant water resources in the world, and its figure of 23,750 kilometers of waterscapes is the sixth highest on the planet. 18,000 of these kilometers are navigable. Its river system


FINDETER 70 / 71

occupies four large basins - Atrato, Magdalena, Orinoco and Amazon - and these carried 3.7 million people in 2014, according to the Colombian River Master Plan. However, most river transportation for passengers in the country is in places where there are no alternative means of transport. And it is this feature which makes it a means of transport that links isolated villages and regions, rather than a system that is integrated with other modes. According to the National Association of Financial Institutions (ANIF), river transportation is 30 per cent more economical than using roads, and this difference is considerably greater in countries with a marine tradition, where high volumes of cargo are carried on big rivers and tributaries.

Most cargo transportation efficiency studies have also shown that river transportation is much more efficient than other modes; however, its lack of versatility limits its utilization to long distances, and only rarely is it used in urban areas. Only when large waterscapes are available within a consolidated urban area is it feasible to introduce water transportation. Despite the country’s water riches, the numerous limitations on existing river transportation conceal its true potential: infrastructure is sparse, and even when piers, jetties, wharves, etc. do exist, they are in a bad state of repair. This illustrates the need for investment to be made in improving the quality of Colombia’s river infrastructure.


The project involves building fifteen landing stages on the two banks of the river. The ‘Sustainable Montería and River Sinú 2032’ plan of action, drawn up by Findeter and the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) as part of the ‘Sustainable and Competitive Cities’ program, concludes that the section of the River Sinú that crosses Montería functions as a natural, structural axis running from south to north. This feature, coupled to the current shortage of collective public transportation and the high demand for journeys from south to north in the capital city of Córdoba province, showed that the river has great potential as an urban transportation system that would require only low investments in infrastructure and maintenance. This project, and its characteristics, encouraged French Development Agenc y (AFD), Montería City Hall and Findeter to join forces and structure the River Sinú Passenger Transportation System - Blue Line. Essentially, the aim is for this new means of transport in the city to be integrated into the Strategic Public Transportation System (SETP) and non-motorized modes, in order to improve the local inhabitants’ quality of life.

south to the Los Garzones area in the north (see Illustration 1). This project can provide an impetus for urban development around the river, consolidate commercial zones and urban densification in its areas of influence, and generate new focal points for activities. The project involves building fifteen landing stages on the two banks of the river over a distance of approximately 14 kilometers, with routes running in both directions. Implementation is proposed in phases, thus enabling investment in the project to be prioritized and initial demand to be maximized, and guaranteeing that resources will be optimized for subsequent stages and that a pioneering system in Colombia will enter service (see Illustration 1). From the hydraulic and hydrological viewpoint, navigability on the River Sinú in Montería is feasible, provided that the


Blue Line is a public passenger transpor tation project based around the River Sinú. It aims to integrate principal destinations in the south, center and north of Montería, and extends from the Los Colores neighborhood in the

Illustration 1

operation is handled by vessels with a shallow draft, in order to cope with conditions at times when water levels in the river are low, from January to April. It should be stressed that the various parties involved with the river and the project were consulted during the structuring stage, such as barge operators, bus drivers and users. This meant that their needs and expectations with respect to the introduction of the system could be known, and it also revealed that these actors, who are key to the success of the project, warmly welcomed it. CONCLUSIONS AND NEXT STEPS

The structuring of the Blue Line shows that Montería is committed to establishing a comprehensive plan that will lead to sustainability in the city’s urban processes. This implies that it will continue to work towards this goal, which resulted in it being recognized as one of the ten most sustainable cities in the world by the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III. That Montería should go back to viewing the river as its principal environmental asset and structural axis shows that this city is becoming one of the world’s most important allies of life, by paying attention to water as the origin of its development and a new driving force for its economy. Once the planning phase of the city’s system has concluded, the pilot project should be implemented and then the following phases, so that the envisaged results in terms of the local inhabitants’ quality of life can be achieved.



Blue line


How do they travel?

96 %

per day use barges to cross the river. 11% board on bicycles.

would like a passenger transportation system on the River ables them to go from one side to the other.

Reasons for traveling: 27 % for work 22 % for studying

91 %

make journeys every day, 90% of whom arrive and then continue their journey on foot or by bicycle.

would be willing to transfer from river transportation.

Project structure results:

Phase 1. 4 landing stages Connects the south and center of the city. 15 landing stages are proposed for the Blue Line, divided into 3 implementation phases: Phase I. 4 landing stages Phase II. 6 landing stages Phase III. 5 landing stages

38 minutes: the time by bicycle

3.8 km long

50 passengers: the capacity 3,308 passengers / day: the demand The 3 phases would connect the south, center and north of the city.

15 kph: the operating speed



Tel: (5) 3587970 Fax: (5) 3580425 regional.barranquilla@


Tel: 301 363 95 41-310 730 60 22

MONTERÍA Includes Atlántico, Bolívar, Cesar, Córdoba, La Guajira, Magdalena, San Andrés and Providencia and Sucre provinces.

Tel: (4) 7816480 Cell phone: 321 249 91 99

Includes Arauca, Norte de Santander, and Santanderprovinces, nd municipalities in southern Cesar.

Celular: 300 444 6375




Tel: (7) 6302043 - 6526569 regional.bucaramanga@



Tel: (5) 3587970 – 3585019 – 3580425 Cell phone: 315 770 24 03 Cell phone: 320 228 7574

Cell phone: 300 565 49 35


Cell phone: 315 257 44 50


Tel: (1) 6230311/88 Ext. 2101 y 2102 – 6230370

Includes Bogotá and Amazonas, Boyacá, Casanare, Guainía, Guaviare, Meta, Vaupés and Vichada provinces.


Cell phone: 317 656 97 87

Includes Cauca, Nariño and Valle del Cauca provinces. Includes Caldas, Quindío, and Risaralda provinces, and municipalities in the north of Valle del Cauca aprovince.


Cell phoner: 316 753 98 74 findeter.buenaventura@


Tel: (2) 3321899 - 3321900 Fax (2) 3322041


Cell phone: 301 376 19 18

Social Networks

Includes Antioquia and Chocó provinces.


Includes Huila, Putumayo, Tolima and Caquetá provinces.


Tel: (4)6046570-60465716046946-6046948-6949

Tel: (6) 3358701 – 3358703


Tel: (6) 3358701 - 3358703


(6) 3358701 – 3358703

For questions of suggestions:


Tel: (8) 8714123 - 8717768


Tel: (8) 8714123 – 8717768


PHOTO: personal file

Addiction CAROLINA URRUTIA VĂ SQUEZ Director, Semana Sostenible

When 21st century cities are being designed and executed, decision-makers would do well to think of the energy lobby’s record. 21ST CENTURY mankind is addicted to fossil fuels in much the same way, although on a much greater scale, that smokers were to tobacco for hundreds of years. When faced with growing evidence of the serious impact that fossil fuels have on the health of individuals and mankind as a whole, energy industries have behaved almost the same as the tobacco industry did, namely setting out to finance scientists and politicians on the basis of an ethical and moral structure that was flexible enough to question the unquestionable: the crystal-clear correlation between emissions and rising temperatures around the world. The incredible dispute between ExxonMobil and the Rockefeller family has revealed to all and sundry the lengths that the oil industry is prepared to go to in order to neutralize and postpone discussions and difficult decisions about the impact that our use of coal and oil has on the atmosphere. Partly as an act of contrition, yet fully aware that their enormous fortune was built around oil exploration, the Rockefellers hired a University of Columbia research team, which proved that ExxonMobil executives had conducted a climate change denial campaign, despite the fact that, internally, they had known of the direct relationship between emissions and climate change since 1981, and had accepted that it was valid. In fact, research undertaken by Stanford University in 1968 for the American Petroleum Institute (API) established virtually beyond doubt that carbon emissions were already causing significant


COLUMN 74 / 75

temperature changes and that by the year 2000 this could result in the polar icecaps melting, sea levels rising, and the oceans warming. Leaving the search for solutions that will alter the course of climate change in the hands of the energy industry would be like going back in time to the eighties and asking tobacco companies to develop tobacco-based products, of their own free will, that were not as harmful to health as traditional cigarettes. Even if they had known the restrictions and reputation issues they would have to face over the following three decades, all the evidence points to the fact that they would have tried to sell as many cigarettes as possible before regulations forced their hand and left them where they are today, effectively concentrating on finding alternatives. The lobby to halt structural changes and modify the course that climate is taking is not a thing of the past. On matters relating to construction, transportation and highway infrastructure, provincial governors and decision-makers in Colombian cities would do well to review sources of information which convince them in everyday terms that it is too difficult, expensive or unpopular to take action on climate when planning their cities. Unfortunately, it is not unusual that it should be those who have most funds available to finance studies and campaigns that have most reasons for postponing change. History will judge badly those who show a lack of moral leadership when it comes to facing up to climate change.

PHOTO: Archivo Semana - Mauricio Olaya

Water treatment plant, San Gil (Santander)

we are the progress that refreshes good ideas, quenches thirst and boosts development in the regions.

Contact us: General address: Calle 103 No 19-20 Tel.: 6230311 / 6230388 / 3905575 Customer care line: findeter





Revista Pensamiento Urbano Edición No. 6 English  

Water for development.

Revista Pensamiento Urbano Edición No. 6 English  

Water for development.