US Government Experts Assess HidroItuango & Rio Cauca Environmental Conditions By Invitation of Colombia’s National Environmental Licensing Authority
At the behest of Colombia’s National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA) scientists from the United States government spent two weeks in Colombia observing and analyzing the environmental impacts of the Hidroituango contingency, the troubled hydroelectric dam construction project located in the department of Antioquia north of Medellín. At the end of the tour they offered several technical recommendations related to the management of the Magdalena-Cauca basin. The experts, funded by the “US Ambassador’s Water Experts Program” were hydrologist and water quality expert Angélica Gutiérrez from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and John Galvez, marine biologist and director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service ( USFWS) of the Florida Peninsula.
The team, accompanied by Colombian technicians, toured the project area including the dam, upstream of the reservoir area and downstream to Nechí. They also reviewed the state of the marshes, interviewed fishing communities in the area, and worked with the ANLA local technical assets.
The recommendations that the scientists offered to their Colombian counterparts highlighted the need for coordinated actions to improve the conditions of the Magdalena-Cauca basin. They also stressed the importance of management and planning for watersheds and micro-watersheds, with better definition of the protection buffers provided by river banks, and careful regulation of socio-economic activities.
The team also recommended developing investment plans to encourage the implementation of wastewater treatment in the municipalities along the river; improving the management of fisheries based on ecosystems and their dynamics. Additionally, they pointed out the importance of the entities attached to the National Environmental System (SINA) working in a coordinated and joint manner to ensure that the impact assessment integrates their contributions as well as those of local, regional and national entities with responsibilities in the project, and establish quantifiable objectives to ensure transparency and inclusion with communities. In addition, they mentioned – based on the American experience – the benefit of giving priority to the exclusive use of native species, taking into account the risk analysis with adaptive management in the restoration process.
It is worth mentioning that the experts met with the participants of the ANLA inter-institutional support board for the contingency of Hidroituango, made up of the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS), Corantioquia, the National Aquaculture and Fisheries Authority (AUNAP), the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute (IAvH), representatives of the Presidency of the Republic and the Ministry of Agriculture. In addition, they participated in an academic event at the Universidad Javieriana in Bogotá, where they talked about their experiences in the United States dealing with the application of public policies to care for the water of the Chesapeake Bay and the management of exotic species in Florida.