Sunday, October 24, 2010

Panama Bay Clean Up Focus On Now And The Future

Guest post By Tyler Ramos

With a large growth in population Panama has fallen behind in the proper disposal of sewage from their residents. Because of this, the sewage was routed into rivers that carried it to the Panama Bay. With the raw sewage going to the bay the smell and contamination of the bay has set forth, over the past decade, a massive clean up of the bay and creating a better system of waste processing.

Panama is the southernmost county located in Central America. It is famous for having the Panama Canal, which is a key shipping canal used to travel from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean. The country has seen its way through various military regimes, United States involvement in government, and have now settled into a government that is presently ran by President Ricardo Martinelli. The population has grown at a fast rate from 1.1 million people in 1960 to almost 3.4 million people in 2008.

With no sewage treatment plant for the country and the large growth in population it was difficult for the country to maintain waste disposal. Cities dumped their sewage into rivers that dumped into the bay, contaminating both the rivers and the bay. Because of this contamination the waterways were filled with bacteria and had a horrible smell.

CAF, Latin America's development bank, helps fund the Panama City and Bay of Panama Cleanup Project to begin correcting this health and environment problem. This project has been funded for more than $1 billion in the past five years, with $540 million of that coming this year. The scope of the project is to clean the areas, develop, and place a plant for waste water treatment.

The country's Ministry of Health is overseeing the construction of the sanitary sewers, drain network and water treatment plant. The drain network will service the cities with approximately 135 kilometers of pipe. For the sewer system there will be a 3 meter in diameter and 8.2 kilometer long interceptor tunnel.

With such a large project Herrenknecht in Schwanau, Germany was contacted to build a large tunnel boring machine. The machine is 3.6 meters in diameter and 124 meters long, and was shipped to the country in August. The machine is nicknamed after President Martinelli's mother, Gloria, and is painted in the Panamanian flag colors.

Because of the contamination, the rivers and bay have a bad smell and bacteria in them. No fishing or water recreation takes place because of this contamination. There are fish in the waterways but they are contaminated themselves. Prior to being contaminated, the rivers and bay would be a place for people to go swimming but that no longer takes place.

Once the project is completed the natural clean up of the environment fixing itself may take another 10 or 15 years. The biggest concern for those living in Panama now is to get a solid infrastructure built to stop the environmental and health impact going on at this time. Many people hope that, once the project is completed, and in place that, they will be able to enjoy their waterways by swimming or fishing in them.

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