14 nov 2018

During La Niña in December 2010, the banks along the Canal del Dique burst, flooding dozens of villages, rendering almost 100,000 people homeless and destroying crops and important infrastructure. The Government of Colombia wanted to address flooding and negative environmental impacts around the Canal del Dique, a 400-year old, 114 km-long navigation route connecting Cartagena Bay to the Magdalena River near Calamar in northern Colombia. It appointed Dutch engineering consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV to design an integral solution. Our design has been finalised and includes the country’s first two navigation locks, yet to be constructed.

People, Planet, Profit

The Government of Colombia assigned Royal HaskoningDHV to design an integral solution that addressed flood prevention, environment, navigation, agriculture, fishery, drinking water supply and all other functions within the system. Our approved solution reduces inflow of water and sediment into the Canal del Dique and manages water levels to ensure flood safety, while significantly improving and restoring deteriorated ecosystems.

Integral solution for the Canal del Dique system | Royal HaskoningDHV 

The figure above shows hydraulic measures and the reduced inflow of water delivered by the proposed solution (marked in blue), in relation to the current situation (marked in red).

Digital engineering

Through comprehensive analysis of the natural system and its functions, we developed 1D, 2D and 3D models to simulate hydraulics, water quality, sediment transport and morphological changes in the project area. To build these numerical models, new data was collected by bathymetric surveys (total 1,350km) and topographic surveys using LIDAR (project area 1,920km2). To optimize these numerical models, hydro-sedimentological measurements were carried out including extensive measurement to determine discharges, sediment concentrations, salinity intrusion and several water quality parameters under different hydrological conditions. Following an extensive baseline study including other technical, environmental and social studies covering all villages and ecosystems, several solution strategies were proposed.

Stakeholders’ preferred solution

Extensive involvement of local communities and other stakeholders through the complete process, made it possible to select a solution preferred by all. Further optimizations have been included in the detailed design of the works and complemented by a complete social and environmental impact assessment of the project.

First navigation locks in Colombia

The approved solution consists of a 250-meter-long navigation lock and a 60-meter-wide inlet structure at Calamar to reduce and control the inflow of water and sediments into Canal del Dique, resulting in flood protection for the complete system. Additionally, closure of the Canal del Dique itself at Puerto Badel will restore the ecological system in the bay of Cartagena. A second lock will maintain navigation between Magdalena River and Cartagena harbour. These first two navigation locks for Colombia are complemented by other hydraulic works like new dikes, inlets, outlets, reinforcements of existing protection levees and road infrastructure. The locks will be constructed by a party yet to be selected.

Water management plan

All these works, together with a predefined operational water management plan, will restore valuable and complex ecosystems of lakes, swamps, mangroves and wetlands while protecting all villages against floods. The pre-construction phase of the project is due to begin in June 2019.

Complex Calamar | Royal HaskoningDHV 


Edgar Ortiz Pabón, Manager of the Adaptation Fund, said "The Canal del Dique project is a strategically important project and the execution of the second Phase will definitively restore this ecoregion".The project has been carried out by Consorcio Dique, a joint venture of Royal HaskoningDHV from the Netherlands and Gomez Cajiao (company of Setec) from Colombia. The project has been executed for Fondo Adaptación (entity of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit in Colombia).