The National Infrastructure Agency of Colombia has awarded Spanish contractor Sacyr a 15-year contract to maintain a 116km canal.
The 100m-wide Canal del Dique runs through the Department of Bolívar in the north of the country, and connects the Río Magdalena to the Caribbean.
Madrid-based Sacyr was the only bidder for the €690m public–private partnership deal.
It will build new locks to prevent flooding and restore the canal’s ecosystem. Two lock-and-gate systems will be installed at two towns along the waterway, at Calamar and Puerto Badel.
Guillermo Reyes González, Colombia’s transport minister, said in a press statement that the government had carried out extensive consultation with communities along the route of the canal. He said: “The state has a historical debt to the region, and in addition to rescuing ecosystems that were in constant degradation, we will mitigate the impact of probable floods.”
The canal passes through the Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo National Natural Parks, which contain important wetlands.
News website LibreMercado notes that the scheme had been under discussion in Colombia for the past 50 years, owing to the effect of sedimentation on the canal.