Canal del Dique, Colombia

Innovative flood control solution safeguards Colombia

Posted on 25 March 2014


Following the severe floods caused by La Niña at the end of 2010, the urgent need to reinforce the Canal del Dique became the most important item on the agenda. Fondo Adaptación chose the Colombian infrastructure services company Gómez Cajiao and Royal HaskoningDHV as the consortia to provide advice on restoring and reinforcing the 400-year-old and 117-km-long Canal del Dique. What does this project mean for Colombia? ‘The project not only provides protection to the population who live along the Canal del Dique, but it also helps to create a sustainable living environment. It also gives an economic boost to the trade which passes through the docklands in the city of Cartagena,’ explains project leader Fortunato Carvajal of Royal HaskoningDHV. Carvajal speaks about Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), a unique method of working which takes account of all external factors in a project. 

Carvajal explains: “Canal del Dique is an extremely important shipping route both in economic and social terms, and connects Cartagena Bay with the river Magdalena. However, the area around Canal del Dique has deteriorated over time. The canal was dug out in the seventeenth century and has been adjusted and widened many times since then. This process has created problems both for the environment and for the population. The last thirty years have seen developments in terms of planned improvements to the ecological system around the canal, but it was the effects of the flood that finally got the project under way.” It was clear that having a Dutch partner was essential to the project’s success, as the Netherlands has a large amount of expertise in the field of integrated water management. Royal HaskoningDHV has also worked frequently in Colombia in years gone by.img-4203-klein

The way in which this project used an integrated approach, taking into account the interests and needs of the population, nature and the economy, was unique for Colombia. “We want to restore the ecosystem to its original state so that we can improve the local environment for people and nature”, says Carvajal. “To achieve this, we have been in consultation with many local parties, such as districts and municipalities. The aim is to protect the population, to restore the ecosystem and also to give the region an economic boost. The shipping route is extremely important for the well-being of the local economy, so we need to make sure that it is properly maintained. Ships using the canal route will now see locks and regulating installations. This is a first for Colombia. These will enable us to limit the amount of water and sediment flows in the canal so that we can make sure shipping activities can continue without any problems.”

“Alongside the implementation of locks and regulating installations, improvements will be made to the current system of dykes. Encircling ring-dykes have been constructed around different villages, and part of the dyke along the canal has been reinforced. These measures aim to limit the flood damage as well as the risk of flooding. At the end of 2010, La Niña caused flooding over an area of 35,000 hectares, leaving many Colombians homeless. This must never happen again.”

Royal HaskoningDHV has been working with different parties as part of this project, including the Dutch knowledge institute Deltares, in the field of flood early warning systems as well as hydrological and morphological modelling. Phase one of the design is essentially complete. The construction of the new locks, regulating installations and dykes is expected to begin in February 2016. The Canal del Dique is set to be ready by June 2018.


  • Water management and modelling
  • Inland water studies
  • Plan study
  • Environmental and Social Studies
  • Design of hydraulic structures
  • Procurement process

Project location

Project partners

  • Deltares
  • Royal HaskoningDHV