Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rain, rain go away

It’s been raining – more than usual for this time of the year. Until yesterday we have had few days with sunshine and almost no days without intense rains.

It’s normal to have intense rainstorms this time of the year – but usually the sun is strong for the morning and part of the afternoon. This dries out the earth a bit. But this year continuing rains and days without sunshine have saturated the earth.

And so this year the rains have been disastrous in our area. Parts of roads have been washed out; other parts have collapsed.

Landslides have been common. In a few places they have left huge boulders in the roads.

In several areas the road bed has dropped several inches.

In some places the road has turned to mud and it is nearly impossible to get up the hill.

I have even heard that houses have been affected and even a small dam has been breached.

Some areas are almost incommunicado. Busses are not running in many places and so people have to walk or find a ride in a pickup.

Some of these are natural disasters, others have human causes.

There is one place where the municipal government bought land to make a football (soccer) field for the village. They leveled it off, but left huge boulders near the side of the road. As the raids began in earnest, the road became increasingly muddy. About two weeks ago I mentioned to someone that this was a disaster in the making. Yesterday, passing by the site, I saw the first disaster. The hillside had moved, leaving a huge breach above and even moving several trees. Before two cars could pass, but now only one – with difficulty. When I returned in the afternoon, the only change was that the trees had been cut down. The mayor had not sent any heavy machinery to try to move the mud and widen the passage.

Well, Saturday morning, the disaster worsened. A huge rock had fallen onto the road and passage was impossible. I tried twice – but it was too narrow. Cars lined up on both sides and some men came out to try to widen the road. They even tried to move the rock, but without success. Finally, I could get through. As I drove toward Dulce Nombre, I came across a bulldozer that was going toward the site. 

When I returned from the meeting they were working on the road – moving tons of earth.

Why is it so bad?

People tell me this year there has been more rain than normal. Is this another example of the effects of climate change? Also, there has been a lot of deforestation – often connected with planting coffee, often done after burning the fields.

Also, as far as I know, there are no environmental laws that govern the construction of buildings and the use of land. If there are, they are not enforced.

Also, in several municipalities there is poor maintenance of the roads. Maybe they don’t have money, but in two municipalities there was money to construct decorative stairways that go nowhere.

I do have to say that at least one of the municipalities seems to be responding well. Last Wednesday the road in Candelaria was impassible, because a hilly section had turned into pure mud. Yet later that day rocks and gravel and dirt had been spread on the area and heavy machinery had flattened it out. It’s not perfect, but cars can pass.

In contrast, there were places that looked as if there would be a disaster if nothing were done. Nothing was done – and the road was impassible for several hours. I could pass this morning only because of the efforts of several men trying to move a rock and others trying to widen the passageway by picking away at the earthen sides of the road.

It’s not that there is not the know-how here to do things well. Sometimes the poverty or the diversion of funds by crooked politicians affects the quality of construction. Also, there seems to be a lack of looking for people who know how to deal with issues like susceptibility to landslides, firmness of the earth, etc. Sometimes it’s looking for a short-cut to get something done – at times because it would slow down a project (which a politician wants to have done to ensure re-election). Sometimes it’s just laziness. Sometimes it’s the greed of large landowners who cut corners and create dangerous situations.

There are other reasons. I invite comments to help us understand what’s really happening and why.

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