Flooding Colombia's Caribbean Coast
Climate change adaptation strategies for communities living just metres from the Caribbean
Written by Lynn
Along the main road between holiday destinations Cartagena and Santa Marta in Colombia are communities suffering from the effects of rising sea levels. La Playa, Nuevo Horizonte and La Gloria are the three communities along this road that all experience regular flooding by sea and rain.
The day we passed through we saw children wading along a road knee deep in water to go and play football on a sand bar and flooded areas filled with floating rubbish.
Floods are caused either by heavy rainfall or seawater incursions in this low lying area. In 2002 the houses were 30metres from the sea but now the Caribbean is just 2metres away. The flood has detrimental effects on the health of the few thousand people living there. This salty, dirty water contaminates the drinking water supply and causes health problems including cholera. Floodwaters also provide breeding sites for mosquitoes that spread Dengue fever and malaria.
The Colombian Red Cross, funded by the Red Cross in the Netherlands, has been running a project in the area since last September. It focuses on providing decent water tanks which will prevent drinking water being contaminated by floodwater. It is also educating the communities about climate change and other environmental issues.
The project is developing warning systems, which induce sea level gauges, to warn people of impending floods. These should at least allow the communities to take evasive action while risk reduction strategies and adaptation measures are being implemented.
The Red Cross project offers short term help but in the longer term the only sustainable solution is for the communities to relocate.