Team of Experts Deployed to the Ituango Dam in Colombia

Team of Experts Deployed to the Ituango Dam in Colombia

A team of three technical experts, supported by a UN Environment team leader, will be deployed between Monday 21 May and Wednesday 23 May for two weeks. A fourth technical expert is on stand-by.

Copernicus Sentinel data image of the dam obtained 17th May 2018

The Ituango Dam is an earth-core rock-filled dam currently under construction on the Cauca River, 170 km north of Medellin in the Antioquia Department of Colombia.

Heavy rains coupled with landslides caused water level in the Cauca River to increase and two tunnels meant to divert water to the river to collapse between 28 April and 7 May 2018. The rising level of the lake sparked concerns that water might overtop the dam and trigger complete collapse. Therefore, on 10 May, a decision was made to flood the engine room to mitigate risk. On 16 May, a further obstruction in the powerhouse further complicated the situation. As a result, the Joint Command Centre led by the National Disaster Risk Management Unit (UNGRD) with the participation of the Ministry of Environment, ordered the evacuation of downstream areas, with the main ones being Valdivia, Puerto Valdivia, Puerto Antioquia, Taraza, Caceres, Caucasia and Nechí. An estimated population of reportedly up to 120,000 could be affected. As of 22 May, more than 25,000 people have been evacuated as a mitigation measure in case of a dam burst.

On 17 May 2018, the Minister of Environment of Colombia requested the assistance of UN Environment in providing technical experts to advise on dam stability issues and potential environmental risks. On the same day, the UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit alerted the Environmental Emergencies Roster and a team of three experts were mobilised by the Swiss Development Cooperation and European Union Civil Protection Mechanism. The team will be led by Dan Stothart, UN Environment’s Regional Humanitarian Affairs Officer.

For further information, please contact Margherita Fanchiotti from UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit (email: [email protected], mobile: +41 76 691 08 59)

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