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Mitigation of Landslide Risk through Bioengineering in Medellín

New 05/10/2017
30 years after the Villatina Tragedy, which killed more than 500 people, the transformation of an area close to Camposanto Villatina is being completed, using bioengineering techniques to reduce the risk of landslides and to improve water quality.

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On the afternoon of Sunday, September 27, 1987, while playing a football classic between Independiente Medellín and Atletico Nacional, 25.000 cubic meters of land fell off the western slope of the Pan de Azúcar hill in Medellín, which buried more than 500 people and more than two hundred were missing in the Villatina neighbourhood.


This gliding over one of the humblest suburbs of the east of the city caused the worst tragedy of Medellin in all times. The amount of material that buried dozens of houses meant that many corpses were never found by rescuers so the place was declared a cemetery. As a result of the tragedy, some 1,700 people were affected and had to be relocated to other sectors of Medellín, most of them carrying the trauma of losing family, friends and neighbours.

During these days of October 2017, the first risk mitigation pilot is being completed in Medellin’s Commune 8 within the Barcelona Solidarity Program of the Mayor’s Office of Barcelona, ​​by the UNESCO Chair on Sustainability from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) in collaboration with its partner in Medellín, the Joint Office Tecnológico de Antioquia – UPC.

The works have consisted in the stabilization of slopes with sliding risk by means of bioengineering techniques, basically slope stabilization trunks, using guadua (the local bamboo). The bed of the river basin has also been reshaped, expanding its margin to increase the flow and reduce the speed, using stairs of guadua. On the other hand, innovative biofilters have been installed in the same bed of the river with the function of water treatment, which will improve the quality downstream. In summary, the following works have been developed:

-Power dissipators trunks

-Balance stabilizers trunks

-Vegetated Buffer strips

-Dissipating ramps

-Evaporative treatment biofilters

The works have been carried out by members of the Camposanto Villatina Association and Cerro de los Valores, after a training process developed by the UNESCO Chair o, Sustainability and the TdeA – UPC Joint Office, which was concreted in the “Diploma in Bioengineering for Sustainable Risk Management “, with 140 theoretical-practical hours.


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UNESCO Chair on Sustainability