Building resilience in Cartagena Bay
The city of Cartagena, Colombia is home to more than 1 million inhabitants. It is a major tourist attraction, yet access to clean water is limited because various sectors — petrochemical, shipping, local artisanal fisheries, and tourism industries — compete for water resources with the natural ecosystems. This poses a serious challenge for the sustainability of the entire socio-ecological system of Cartagena Bay.
The artificial Canal del Dique connects the city of Cartagena and Cartagena Bay to the Magdalena River. A previous IDRC-funded research project showed that the high sedimentation and increasing pollution in the bay pose risks to the ecosystem and public health. Extreme droughts in coastal areas increase pressure on an already fragile sanitation and drinking water supply system, and a rising sea level increases the impact on the coastal areas of Cartagena. Worst affected are the poor coastal communities that have inadequate access to both water and public health services and are dependent on artisanal fishing and tourism services.
This project aims to address the above challenges through hydrological, health, and governance research accompanied by capacity building of coastal communities. It will produce an early warning system and projections of future sea level changes. With this information, the regional environmental authority, the Corporación Autónoma Regional del Canal del Dique, will be able to respond to the combined challenges of pollution and climate change, and develop policies to enable coastal communities to adapt to those challenges.
Simultaneous socioeconomic studies will evaluate the combined impact of pollution and climate change on communities, thereby contributing to the effective governance of the Cartagena Bay system. Emerging scientific results achieved in the first stages of the project will be integrated into the capacity building component to strengthen young leaders’ ability to manage and monitor water and health services. Together, these activities will contribute to one main goal: to provide scientific advice and consolidate the new Inter-institutional Environmental Committee of Cartagena Bay.
Universidad EAFIT will lead the project and conduct the hydrological and oceanographic studies. Universidad de Cartagena will manage the health component and implement the training of community leaders, and the Universidad de los Andes will be responsible for the economics component. This project will contribute to strengthening the management capacity of the Corporación Autónoma Regional del Canal del Dique and the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Environment of Colombia.