Navigate quietly through a water mirror surrounded by green mountains while in the background you can see a 225 meter high dam -equivalent to almost twice the building Coltejer from Medellín- and 20 million m3 of volume. That image is what they seek to promote in Hidroituango, that beyond generating 17 percent of the country’s energy in 2027 when its eight turbines are in operation, it also has the potential to develop touristically to the municipalities in its area of influence.
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In 2015, when the physical works in the hydroelectric plant were just beginning, the then Governor of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo, indicated that he dreamed of navigating said dam in the future.
How viable is tourism in Hidroituango?
There are initiatives associated with agrotourism, as well as vineyards, bird watching, hiking, waterfalls and viewpoints. It is an area with a wealth of water
Juan David Blanco, Secretary of Tourism of Antioch, He assured that the area has all the attributes to be a tourist potential of the department.
In fact, within the framework of this megaproject, As part of the socio-environmental investment plan, work has been done on the Reservoir Management Plan, which has a very important component in tourism planning.
“There is an exercise in different stages of tourism planning for the municipalities in the Hidroituango area of influence, from the conceptualization of the tourism inventory, the development of local plans, the strengthening of local tourism boards and the identification of initiatives of community bases with the objective of being able to generate the tourism project and develop capacities in the territory”, said the official.
Blanco clarified that each municipality has different stages or levels of development in terms of tourism development, that is, while some already have more advanced initiatives, in others there is not even an organized tourism board.
The objective is to accompany each process so that, in an orderly manner, tourism is given life as an economic activity for the communities associated with the reservoir.
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“There are initiatives associated with the agrotourism, as well as vineyards, bird watching, hiking, waterfalls and viewpoints. Peque has beautiful hot springs that are not well known. It is an area with a wealth of water that allows the generation of an entire ecosystem focused on nature tourism,” said the secretary.
One of the most advanced initiatives is that of Diego Palacios, a native of Ituango, who worked at Hidroituango and now hopes to benefit from the money from the transfers and move Hidro-Ituango Tours forward.
The man has already made five trips with a partner agency in a multi-day plan that, in addition to a boat tour of the reservoir and a visit to two natural waterfalls on his itinerary, includes a stop at the dam level and visits by San José de la Montaña, San Andrés de Cuerquía, Toledo and Ituango, with typical dishes of the region and cultural displays of indigenous reservations that inhabit the territory.
“Tourism leaders need training from the Government. We have not had support so we work with our nails. The idea in the future is to have our own boats, but we do not have much knowledge of tourism, nor social networks”, explains the entrepreneur.
And he adds that the objective is that the same people from the towns in the area of influence are the ones who develop the tourist proposal for those who wish to know the project and its surroundings.
“In my case, I am the only one, the one who made the decision to create a company, no one else has. So I say, companies are going to come here and what are we going to do?… With the Red Cloth on our shoulders, cleaning the boats, running errands when we have all the wealth”, Palacios points out.
Precisely, the accompaniment and training of people in the region is one of the challenges facing the current Government and the next one, which will arrive in 2024.
“The aim is to focus on the sub-region as a tourist entity and not one municipality or another, in order to jointly promote the attractions they have, for which the role of EPM as executor of the project is very important,” explained the Secretary of Tourism.
This, added Blanco, since a large percentage of the properties in the area of influence belong to EPM and in this sense, the aim is to generate the integration of care for the ecosystem with the development of the tourism sector.
According to the official, this can be used so that, as a loan or other legal figure, so that the communities can develop their tourist activity and, at the same time, conserve water resources and ecosystems.
This also prevents uncontrolled growth, as well as the invasion of properties and hence the importance of doing this work hand in hand with the communities.
Blanco clarified, however, that it would not be a tourism similar to the one in Guatapé. The Hidroituango reservoir consists of 79 km. of water mirror, but with special conditions.
“It is not a typical reservoir, but rather it is very longitudinal, which is why the construction of jetties at different points along the river is being considered, which makes it a corridor so that the offer is broader and more diverse and does not become hyper-concentrated in mass tourism”, affirmed the secretary.
One of the essential points is that, once the feasibility of the activities in the body of the reservoir is established, there should be active tourism promotion exercises to achieve rapid positioning.
In this order of ideas, what the current Government is doing is planning and structuring, not only of the municipalities from their territorial organization, but also the strengthening of community-based initiatives so that, starting in 2024, with a new administration, promotion services can be consolidated and with the initiatives that are enabled.
“Everything is framed in the Antioquia 2040 agenda, which indicates that, if everything goes well, in a period of between five and ten years, all the wide tourist offer in the area of the Hidroituango reservoir will be consolidated. With the tourist dynamics that we are seeing, we see that this will be achieved in a short time,” said Blanco.
Works in Hidroituango in 2023
It is not a typical reservoir, but rather it is very longitudinal, which is why the construction of jetties at different points along the river is being considered.
In October 2022 EPM announced that the Colombian firm Schrader Camargo SAS will be in charge of completing the civil works in units 3 and 4 of electricity generation. hydroituangeither.
The works consist of executing the missing concrete for the embedment of turbine number 4, as well as the splicing and emptying of the concrete in the tunnels that will carry the water from the reservoir to the units.
According to the commitments acquired with the Energy and Gas Regulation Commission (Creg), the two remaining turbines of the first phase must start operations before November 30, 2023.
For the second phase, which includes units 5 to 8, the process had five postponements and, finally, in December of last year, EPM only received a single offer for a Colombian-Chinese consortium.
The only interested party that submitted its formal proposal for the bidding for the second stage of Hidroituango was the Ituango PC-SC consortium, made up of the Chinese companies Yellow River, Power China Internacional and the Colombian company Schrader Camargo.
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EPM is evaluating the offer to determine whether to award the contract to the sole bidder or to declare the tender void and repeat the process.
EPM has been working on an area conservation project in which they have architectural approaches for the development of light infrastructure and the development of jetties so that tourist use is orderly and does not generate a problem of overdemand or overflow of capacities. What is sought is the care of the water resource.
Also, there are other municipalities that are associated with heritage tourism.
In some of the municipalities, collectives associated with tourism development can already be seen, while in others the associative scheme to start doing so is just being determined.
One of the bets that we have had since the Development Plan has been the connection of the municipal capitals, among which there are some that are in the area of influence of Hidroituango, such as Peque and Sabanalarga, which are being paved.
This must be complemented with the strengthening of strategic circuits and 4G roads that are being built in the department.
Estimates of Public Companies of Medellín calculate that, when the 8 generation units come into operation, during the first year close to 110,000 million pesos will be delivered in transfers to 155 municipalities that supply Cauca and the Environmental Corporations of Corpourabá and Corantioquia, as well as National Natural Parks of Colombia .
For now, with the ignition of the first two turbines, the 11 municipalities in the area of influence, which includes Ituango, Toledo, Briceño, Yarumal, San Andrés de Cuerquia, Peque, Buriticá, Santa Fe de Antioquia, Olaya, Liborina and Sabanalarga in the northern and western subregions of the department, they will receive close to 15,000 million pesos in the first year.
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