Building Bridges to Broaden the IECA Community

Oct. 30, 2012

IECA’s mission is to connect, educate, and develop the worldwide erosion and sediment control community. When I think about my first contact with IECA, over 15 years ago, I remember how difficult it was for me to fully understand the potential of belonging to this community.

Improving the Environment
As a young Latin-American engineer starting in this field, I noticed that despite the technological advances of the last 50 years, many projects still used older techniques to control soil erosion. In my field, for instance, the methods used to install an oil or gas pipe in the middle of a jungle had not changed over many years. This observation made me understand that I could play an important role in improving the environment.

The first step to improving and updating techniques is to rethink every stage of the process, using an environmental point of view. Using the example of the oil or gas pipe, my colleagues and I understood that we needed a significant local labor force before we could use the large machines needed for weeding. Additionally, we carefully studied the drainage matrix needed to conduct the water rapidly out and in a controlled way. We reduced the width in order to ensure minimum soil movement. As we moved less soil, we produced less impact, and we needed less mitigation. The results of our study and resulting technique were very positive, and we obtained a 60% environmental impact reduction. These results were realized by applying very simple ideas.

In order to improve the environment more, my challenge was to learn as much as possible about what the developed world was doing and using to solve important soil erosion issues. I wanted to learn about selecting solutions applicable in our part of the world, and I also was looking for ways to transmit that knowledge in a useful and understandable way to our people. That was when I realized that the solution to my goal was to be heavily involved and committed to IECA.

Building Relationships
As many of you know, I was one of the promoters and cofounders of the Iberoamerican Chapter of IECA. I also served as its president from 2006 to 2008. Initially, we had the support of many enthusiastic people, but it has been very difficult for us to achieve a smooth operation. Even so, since its creation, the chapter has been able to organize several regional conferences every two years. Starting in Bucaramanga, Colombia, in 2002, following events were in Lima, Peru, in 2004; Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2006; Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 2008; and Panamá City, Panama, in 2010. Our most recent conference was VI CICES that took place in Granada, Spain, this past October. These events have strengthened relationships among the Latin-American community that is strongly committed to erosion and sediment control.

A Friendly Bridge
Today, I am a first-time board member of IECA. I have a great opportunity to show the benefits of belonging to our association and to contribute with some ideas from a more active position. I am working hard to be a friendly “bridge” between the IECA Board of Directors and people from Latin countries. The challenge ahead is overwhelming and not easy, but our conviction and commitment to the environment is stronger than the challenge. I am very happy to feel that I am an active part of this community, and I thank you very much for the friendship and trust received. I will try to do my best.

About the Author

Gustavo Salerno

Gustavo O. Salerno, CPESC, serves on the IECA Board of Directors