Sunday, August 18, 2019

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Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced August 15 that local leaders from communities around Puerto Valdivia, Antioquia are now participating in a broad government/citizen/EPM expert panel examining possible stability issues with the main rock massif adjacent to the giant Hidroituango hydroelectric dam in Antioquia.

The decision to include the “MEDAV” (Mesa de Dialogos y Acuerdos-Afectados por Hidroituango, Valdivia) leadership group came following an August 10 letter from MEDAV to a Colombian court judge charged with overseeing the multiparty panel now studying the Hidroituango stability issue.

In its letter, the MEDAV group pointed out to the judge that the left-wing political organization “Rios Vivos” – a current member of the multi-party study panel -- fails to represent the affected Valdivia community and “hasn’t made any positive contribution to solving the problems generated” by the May 2018 collapse of a Hidroituango diversion tunnel.

That tunnel collapse last year triggered a flood that temporarily forced evacuation of many homes in Valdivia downstream of the dam.

“Rios Vivos” has fought the Hidroituango hydroelectric project since its inception -- and publicly calls for the dam’s destruction now, no matter whether it would operate safely, and no matter that such a destruction would cost Antioquia untold billions of dollars in future public revenue via the production of zero-emissions, clean electricity for all Colombian citizens.

Instead, Rios Vivos “has dedicated itself to creating panic and delaying the process of bringing about positive solutions for our community,” according to MEDAV.

Since the Hidroituango dam has now been completed, and since the Cauca River is now safely flowing over the dam’s engineered spillway, Valdivia residents are gradually returning to homes previously evacuated.

“Persons and families that suffered from the [sudden, temporary flooding that resulted from the diversion tunnel collapse in May 2018] don’t consider themselves ‘victims’ of Hidroituango, but rather ‘temporary casualties’ affected by the [temporary flooding] -- and we value the efforts by EPM to repair all the damages caused,” according to the MEDAV letter.

“Contrary to what ‘Rios Vivos’ claims, the communities around Puerto Valdivia have built relations of trust with EPM, because this company has kept us informed about the measures they have taken to repair the damages and to minimize the risks of the project. In addition, EPM has complied with the commitments they have assumed to help those affected,” the letter concludes.

In an August 15 press bulletin, EPM added that the technical panel has now met six times, with a seventh meeting scheduled August 28 and a site visit scheduled for September 2-3.

The panel eventually aims to produce a technical study analyzing the stability of the rock massif adjacent to the dam -- in order to decide whether the Hidroituango project should continue to move forward.

The US$5 billion Hidroituango project is scheduled to start producing power in late 2021, then reach its full 2.4-gigawatts capacity in 2024 -- providing 17% of the entire Colombian electric power output.


After decades of delays, a new, COP$1.1 trillion (US$317 million), 24-kilometers-long highway -- including Colombia’s longest tunnel – on August 15 opened to link Medellin directly to the Jose Maria Cordoba (JMC) international airport at Rionegro.

According to Concesion Tunel Aburra-Oriente (CTAO, the project consortium involving 74 companies), the new highway -- including two long tunnels, one short tunnel and nine viaducts -- would cut travel time from Medellin to JMC to 18 minutes, compared to 45 minutes currently.

The route also will cut other personal transit times to and from Medellin and the rapidly growing “oriente” (east of Medellin) region. Drawn to its pleasurably cooler climate, cleaner air and more wide-open spaces, Medellin residents are increasingly moving east into thousands of new “oriente” homes and businesses every year, toward what locals dub “Medellin’s second floor.”

“The Aburrá-Oriente Road Connection is a mega-project that connects the Aburrá Valley Metropolitan Area with the San Nicolás Valley -- two regions of great importance for our [Antioquia] department, including large-scale industrial, tourist, environmental and mobility dynamics,” according to CTAO.

“Starting in Medellín, in the Baltimore sector of the Las Palmas highway, a new road interchange allows access to the first tunnel, with a length of 774 meters.

“After this tunnel, there is an open-sky track in the east-central area of the Aburrá Valley, then comes a second tunnel of 8.2 kilometers in length.”

A parallel tunnel alongside the new tunnel has already been excavated in anticipation of converting the two-lane highway into four lanes -- divided for faster travel in both directions.

While some politicians and local residents historically had raised concerns that the tunnel might drain vital groundwater from local farms near the route, the CTAO consortium responded by employing the most advanced European tunnel-construction technologies, according to CTAO.

Beyond employing a special cement to prevent water escape into the tunnels, the consortium also installed 77 groundwater monitoring systems, according to CTAO.


The “Covipacifico” highway construction consortium announced August 14 that its engineers have begun initial work towards recovery of a 300-meters-long section of the crucial, under-construction “Pacifico 1” highway wiped out by a landslide last May.

The landslide not only destroyed the new section of highway but also wrecked a 300-meters-long section of existing highway below, blocking the traditional route between Medellin’s southern suburb of Caldas and the town of Bolombolo alongside the Cauca River.

As a result, freight traffic southwestward from Medellin toward the main Pacific port of Buenaventura has been forced to take lengthy and costly detours. Final resolution of the landslide problem is likely to take many more months.

“After the [land] mass movement that happened suddenly on May 28 that affected the existing road and the Pacifico 1 divided highway under construction, Covipacifico now works constantly and responsibly in the search for solutions that allow to recover mobility in the Sinifaná sector (PR 59 + 600 and PR 60 + 000) of Colombia Route 6003,” according to the consortium.

“Thanks to the best climatic and safety conditions that have occurred in the affected area in the last 15 days, it has been possible for specialist [engineers] to access the site in order to establish mitigation measures.

“Currently, Covipacifico through its construction contractor mobilizes the resources necessary to advance the actions recommended by the experts.

“Part of the approaches to be implemented [include] the construction of canals and drain structures for water management, critical [land-] mass management, implementation of deep drains in slopes and control structures at the top of the slope.

“Additionally, an early warning monitoring system will be implemented that will allow for timely reaction to any eventuality.

“The implementation and progress of this mitigation phase will define technical alternatives that enable removal and recomposition activities in the area, and thus seek to obtain a temporary, gradual and secure solution for [traffic] user mobility,” according to the consortium.



Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced July 31 that the 254-kilometers-long “Mar 2” highway project connecting Medellin to new Atlantic ports just won financial close.

According to ANI, the project got US$652 million in finance from three sources: China Development Bank (US$418 million), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking (US$84 million) and Colombia’s Financiera de Desarrollo Nacional (FDN) finance agency (US$150 million).

Colombia President Iván Duque announced the financing deal following a meeting in Beijing this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Mar 2” is the first “fourth generation” (4G) highway concession project in Colombia involving China Harbour Engineering Company, according to ANI.

Once “Mar 2” and the connecting “Mar 1” highways are complete, freight transport between Medellin and new ports in the Uraba region will be slashed to four hours, greatly improving the competitiveness of Medellin’s industrial and commercial sectors.

The Mar 2 project includes 54 bridges and 19 tunnels, and will make connections with several “4G’ highways as well as the under-construction “Toyo" tunnel west of Medellin, which will become Colombia’s longest tunnel -- and one of the largest in all South America..

‘Pacifico 1’ Tunnel Excavation Completed

On another front, the US$790 million “Pacifico 1” 4G highway project between Medellin’s southern suburb of Caldas and the Cauca River port town of Bolombolo just completed excavation of two parallel, 2.8-kilometers-long tunnels near Sinifaná in Antioquia.

Following the excavations, the next step is lining the tunnels with concrete and installing lighting, fire controls and emergency communications systems, according to ANI.

While completion of the “Sinifaná” tunnel excavation is a positive step forward, the same project suffered a reversal two months ago when heavy rains caused a landslide that wiped-out a 300-meters-long stretch of under-construction “Pacifico 1” highway as well as 300 meters of the existing highway below, temporarily blocking the most convenient route between Medellin and Bolombolo.

Restoration of the existing highway and reconstruction of the ruined section of new highway is expected to take many months, probably pushing-back the expected completion date of Pacifico 1.


Medellin-based textile and clothing industry trade group Inexmoda announced July 25 that the just-concluded, 30th annual “Colombiamoda” fashion show here generated sales deals estimated at US$143 million.

While that’s a 15% dip from last year’s Colombiamoda sales estimate, it’s still a positive sign for Colombia’s fashion industry, with Medellin and Antioquia continuing to lead the way.

According to Inexmoda, this year’s show included 11,800 buyers, 12% of which were internationals – mainly from the USA, Ecuador and México. Among the Colombian national buyers, most were from Antioquia, Cundinamarca and Valle del Cauca, according to the trade group. A parallel “Textiles2” show here included another 800 buyers.

In addition to the in-person attendance, another 70,000 people were able to tune-into Colombiamoda 2019 via internet, through a special “Concept Market” and “Colombiamoda Digital” channel.

This year’s edition included 25 fashion runway shows featuring Colombian designers and 206 models from 28 agencies, according to Inexmoda.

In another novelty this year, Inexmoda, Colombia trade promotion agencyProColombia and international package-delivery company FedEx organized a special show targeting international buyers of Colombian fashion designs.

On the education front for the show, Inexmoda and Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana attracted 8,700 in-person attendees and 6,000 internet streaming attendees for several lectures and workshops on issues affecting the fashion and textile industries.

A parallel fall-winter 2019-2020 fashion-trends "outlook forum" included 16 more lectures. In addition, a first-ever “prospectives forum” enabled 900 visitors to experience future design possibilities using artificial intelligence technologies provided by Microsoft.

Besides generating new business deals for fashion designers and clothing manufacturers, Colombiamoda 2019 generated an extra US$12 million in income for local hotels, restaurants and vendors, according to Medellin’s Secretary of Industry and Tourism.


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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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