By Ricardo Maldonado Rozo
Cartagena, Colombia, Dec 31 (EFE).- Leaders in this Caribbean city that is Colombia’s top tourist destination have embarked on an ambitious project to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels due to climate change.
Announced in 2015, Plan 4C (Competitive and Climate Compatible Cartagena) is the centerpiece of the official response to projections that the sea level will be up to 20 cm (7.8 in) higher by 2040, putting more than 80 percent of the city’s neighborhoods at risk.
The initiative calls for the construction of six embankments and four breakwaters and the creation of 80 m (262 ft) of new beaches.
Beyond damage to buildings and infrastructure and coastal erosion, the rising water has the potential to disrupt the ecosystem in ways that would threaten the fishing industry and even double the incidence of diseases such as dengue fever and leptospirosis.
“If the median sea level rises by a meter approximately 93 percent of Cartagena’s tourism zone would be affected,” Capt. German Escobar, director of the Colombian navy’s Center for Caribbean Oceanographic Research (CIOH), told Efe.
“This is a model of median sea level rise that is based on international forecasts, the projection for sea increase in 100 years,” he said.
The effects of climate change are already visible in Cartagena Bay, where the island of Abanico has all but disappeared beneath the waves, while nearby streets remain flooded even in the dry season.
Scientific predictions are “very important to be able to make some good mitigation plans,” Escobar said. “There will have to be plans for relocation and for what kind of works we will need to protect all this infrastructure that surrounds this great tourist city.”
Sometime in the first quarter of 2022, authorities will have a new tool in the form of the Smart Heritage City in a Box app, according to Cartagena Heritage and Culture Institute (IPCC) head Saia Vergara.
“We finally managed to put together a plan for Cartagena adapted to the necessities of the city, thinking above all about that threat of the climate crisis,” she told Efe.
The “smart city” team is also trying to develop a net of sensors that would enable weather forecasters to provide advance warning about the coming of the rainy season, which brings flooding to the center of Cartagena.
With such a system in place, “the responsible entities can address the emergency before it happens and not as it happens: (the center) floods and nobody knows what to do,” Vergara said. EFE ric/dr