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Colombia

Hidroituango, el megaproyecto de ingeniería en Colombia, tiene otro problema: un socavón a 40 metros

Por CNN Español

(CNN Español) — El proyecto de ingeniería eléctrica más importante de Colombia, Hidroituango, sigue atravesando dificultades, por lo que las autoridades hacen seguimiento cercano al proyecto.

Este domingo, el director de la Unidad Nacional para la Gestión del Riesgo de Desastres, Eduardo José González Angulo, informó que se mantiene la observación minuciosa y las alertas preventivas para las comunidades aledañas frente a la evolución del proyecto Hidroituango, luego de que se tomara la decisión acelerar el cierre de la casa de máquinas, debido al descubrimiento de un socavón en el proyecto.

This shows the construction of the Ituango dam in the department of Antioquia, Colombia.

The Hidroituango hydroelectric plant, Colombia’s largest engineering project, is located in the department of Antioquia, in northwestern Colombia. EPM estimates that once in operation, it will provide 17% of the country’s energy when it is inaugurated.

The project is located on the Cauca River, one of the most important in the country that runs 1,350 kilometers and passes through 150 municipalities, and in Ituango and Briceño are the main works.

The sinkhole

The hole that was discovered on January 3, is a few meters 40 of the surface of the mountain where the project is located and is located near the water catchment system of the powerhouse, as reported last week Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), in charge of the project.

The powerhouse is a key place of the dam, because there electric power is generated. From April of 2018 machine house was flooded to evacuate the waters and that the Cauca River retakes its flow naturally.

La inundación de la casa de máquinas fue una medida de emergencia debido a la alta afluencia de aguas. Desde hace meses está inundada, y debido a las condiciones que actualmente hay en el proyecto –como el descubrimiento del socavón y la disminución de las aguas del caudal– se aceleró esta decisión, le dijo a CNN una fuente de Hidroituango con conocimiento de la situación.

«No podemos decir en este momento de qué magnitud es o qué lo creó [el socavón]», dijo el pasado jueves John Maya Salazar, gerente general encargado de EPM, sobre el socavón.

«[We do not know] if it was because of the event that was created on May 12, when the water outlet was presented through the access tunnel to the machine house, we do not know if it was that, or if it was due to the inflow of water generated that undermining, or what is the reason, » added Maya Salazar , but said that» the behavior of the massif is adequate, we have no other manifestation other than what is happening. «

On May 12, EPM requested the residents of seven Antioquia municipalities to withdraw from the banks of the Cauca River due to the increase in flow due to the Hidroituango works, however, none of those municipalities on the Cauca riverbank had evacuations.

Last Friday, the general manager of EPM, Jorge Londoño, announced that it would accelerate the closing of the machine house starting this week. It is expected that this procedure will be given from January 16 at 6 a.m.

With the closing of gate 2, which is the first to be closed this Wednesday, it is expected that enter the machine house only half of what is currently entering, going from about 750 cubic meters per second to about 350 , explained John Moya Salazar last week. The other 350 cubic meters would enter the reservoir, and would exit through the landfill, which is the normal process of the dam.

When this happens, it is planned to close the other gate. This could happen in an estimated time of 15 days, according to EPM.

The idea with this is to leave the power house free of water circulation and that all the water from the Cauca River enters the reservoir and leaves through the landfill. Once this place is free of water, it will be investigated what produced this sinkhole, if there are more of these, and the necessary repairs will have to be made.

This contingency plan that the authorities are pursuing, seeks to prevent problems from occurring for the population downstream due to the closing of the floodgates and the stronger flow of water, said a source from the Ituango Project.

Londoño said Friday that the closing of the floodgates does not generate stability risk of the massif where the project is located. The process can take about a month , according to Londoño.

During the days that the gate closes, there will be no workers in the project, said EPM.

Alert levels in the surrounding municipalities

Moya said last week that alerts were activated for the surrounding towns in case the mountain had some change and to be prepared for the emergency. Until this Sunday, the emergency agencies did not make major changes in the alerts, but said they would monitor the situation permanently.

The Government of Antioquia announced this Friday that after inspections carried out on the mountain «there is no risk for people located in the area of ​​influence of the project.»

Until Monday, the UNGRD maintained the level of alert for the 17 municipalities surrounding the project as it had established for several months.

Thus, the municipality of Puerto Valdivia, which is the closest to Hidroituango, maintains a red alert. Puerto Antioquia, Cáceres and Tarazá, which are about 76 km from the dam, are on orange alert. And another 12 municipalities of Antioquia, Sucre and Bolivar, more than 140 kilometers from the project, keep the orange alert, according to the most recent report of the UNGRD.

This is the level of alert in the municipalities surrounding the Hidroituango project. (Credit: UNGRD).

Entre tanto, el Consejo Departamental para la Gestión del Riesgo de Desastres, pidió que se presentara un plan en el que se contemplen posibles afectaciones que genere el cierre de la compuerta 2, entre los cuales se encuentran «dificultad en la ejecución de actividades económicas, afectación a la movilidad», según la Gobernación de Antioquia.

Entre tanto, el ministro de Defensa de Colombia, Guillermo Botero, dijo este domingo que tiene dispuestos a 120 hombres de la Defensa Civil para atender emergencias en cuatro municipios que están en cercanías a la represa de Hidroituango, y que pondrá a disposición de este operativo dos helicópteros en caso de que tengan que ser usados para emergencias.

El alcalde de Medellín, Federico Gutiérrez, dijo que EPM presentó un informe de los protocolos del cierre de casa de máquinas, y que el procedimiento comenzará con el cierre de la compuerta número 2 este miércoles.

«Estamos plenamente articulados, tanto a nivel nacional, departamental, como local. Mantendremos informadas a las comunidades. De igual forma se han presentado los protocolos para mitigar cualquier posible afectación tanto a las comunidades en términos sociales y ambientales», dijo Gutiérrez.

El 2018 Hidroituango tuvo una serie de situaciones que pusieron en alerta a varios municipios aledaños por cuenta de fallas en el proyecto.

En mayo, debido a la creciente del río Cauca, cientos de personas fueron evacuadas de un municipio aledaño a la represa y a la alerta se extendió hasta por cuatro departamentos.

En ese entonces las autoridades se prepararon para una emergencia producida por el aumento del caudal, y dijeron que podría generarse una ola de hasta 26 metros de altura. Sin embargo, la emergencia fue superada poco después.