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Building Capacity in the Colombian coastal area

NCAP Colombia evaluates the vulnerability of key economic sectors to climate change effects in the coastal area and identifies strategies to build capacity to cope with potential SLR-related impacts in two vulnerable areas: Cartagena de Indias (Caribbean coast) and San Andres de Tumaco (Pacific coast). The project also generates public awareness and sets demonstrative pilot actions to prepare the country for the development of a National Policy on Climate Change Adaptation.


The methodology used in this case study consists of the following steps: At a first stage, the biophysical and socio-economic systems of the study areas are examined to identify current problems and opportunities. For the socio-economic systems’ evaluation, assessments and existing studies are used. For the bio-physical system Pressures and impacts were identified through a problem analysis carried out for each area based on the Driving Force, Pressure, State and Impact – DPSIR methodology.

The second stage of the methodology focuses on the vulnerability assessment of the natural and socio-economic systems of each area. It develops and operationalises a natural susceptibility index and a socio-economic vulnerability index. The third stage of the methodology considers the information gained about the system’s behavior in the previous stage and establishes a functional and structural relationship among major elements through the Adaptation Decision Matrix (ADM) tool. The fourth and last stage of the methodology is based on different steps to analyse several adaptation strategies.

Learning outcomes

A number of key learnings came from the project. Long term planning was evidently essential. To adapt effectively to SLR and other climate change effects planning needs to start at least 10 to 30 years ahead of time. At times it will be necessary to plan for the relocation of people, habitats and buildings. To do so cost-effectively early action is required. Moreover, to cope with the uncertainty related to climate change and coastal dynamics, flexibility in management and planning is necessary. The importance of thinking and acting in a wider context also became clear. The boundaries used for territorial planning do not consider the boundaries of Environmental Coastal Units . To adopt a flexible and responsive approach to deal with coastal change, planning and action needs to consider a much wider spatial context which includes managing freshwater catchments and coastal units.

The project found additionally that alliances were an essential part of any solution. Given the impact that decisions taken today may have on the site and the surroundings, it is not possible to operate in isolation. Facing the problems and challenges affecting the study areas requires collaborative action between the local population and neighboring coastal owners and managers. Mutually beneficial solutions like large-scale realignment projects can only be achieved by adopting a strong partnership approach.

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