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Training in Wastewater Treatment for Colombia

In 2016, the Colombian Government passed two new laws affecting wastewater disposal and discharge. This new legislation has created a compliance pressure for various local industries including but not limited to utilities, food and beverage production, and oil and gas. Companies and public services have between two and five years to adapt to the new guidelines. Otherwise, they will face extensive and costly penalties or even closure.

This pressure to comply has created a need for new specialist knowledge on the part of industries and municipalities. Lack of expertise on a local level results in societal stress, increasing costs, and difficulty in complying with the latest legislation regarding wastewater disposal and discharge. Insufficient wastewater treatment technologies and infrastructure not only result in cost inefficiencies but also have a severe impact on the environment and local communities. Consequently, there is a substantial need for an external organization that collaborates, consults, and advises industries regarding wastewater treatment, regardless of whether they are in the private or public sector.

The Center for Business in the Americas (CBA), with its existing experience in Colombia and a reliable network of relevant local and Swiss partners, has initiated the project “Swiss Know-How/Technology Transfer for Wastewater Treatment in Colombia.” This project aims to transfer existing knowledge from Switzerland to meet the new requirements. The knowledge gap in the industry will be addressed by training the National Center for Clean Production (CNPML), based in Medellín, to assist local industries in complying with the new legislation.

Having acquired the relevant Swiss expertise, CNPML will be able to act as consultants in wastewater management in Colombia, advising and assisting local municipalities, industries, and institutions in sustainable and efficient wastewater treatment. Not only will the Colombian government and industry in general profit from the project, but so will local communities currently affected by contaminated water discharge.

The skills that CNPML will have gained once training is complete will provide the basis for companies to find solutions (technical, organizational, and commercial) to meet the latest legal requirements.

The project, headed by CBA, is divided into three phases:
1.       Preparation and gap analysis to better understand the needs of local entities.
2.       Development, implementation, and evaluation of a tailor-made training program.
3.       Involvement of core local industries, municipalities, and utility companies, as well as local universities to present Swiss expertise and discuss possible solutions.

Following the training program, there will be a conference with all the stakeholders: CNPML, Colombian stakeholders, Swiss partners, and CBA to exchange information. This will be followed by a refresher course to identify and discuss any additional knowledge needed for the future potential of CNPML business models and marketing strategy.

CBA will ensure the transfer of expertise by bringing in Swiss specialists, including WABAG (a global leader in wastewater remediation technologies), to develop, implement, manage, and deliver specialized courses, including distance and e-learning programs. The training program will utilize different teaching methods such as lecturing, demonstrating, problem-based learning (PBL), and practical case studies. The project also includes an onsite visit by CNPML in Switzerland.

The CHF 304,000 project, co-financed by the Swiss Federal Government, is expected to be completed by summer 2019 and will serve as a benchmark for future international cleantech training programs.