San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gov’t Builds Levy to Protect Matagalpa From Flooding

The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) this week began building the last 50 meters of a levy meant to protect a community of 700 squatter families on the shores of Matagalpa’s Rio Grande from potential floods this rainy season, according to area MARENA representative Abdul Montoya.

When the Rio Grande flooded last year amid record rainfall, it killed four people and damaged 200 homes in this north region.

Environment and disaster officials met last week to find ways to avoid the disaster caused last year by more than 50 straight days of rain in September and October, in the wake of Hurricane Felix (NT, Oct. 26, 2007).

At the meeting, officials decided to ask President Daniel Ortega directly for the $50,000 needed to dredge 3 kilometers of the  Rio GrandeRiver to reduce flood risk toneighboring communities this rainy season.

“There’s no other way to do it,”Montoya said of the river dredging plan, which he said isn’t an ideal solution but a short-term fix.

Dredging is, however, a needed measure for this rainy season, while the government seeks out longer-term solutions to avoid further death and destruction when the river floods again – which it is expected to do within the next 10 years,Montoya said.

The river reached its highest level in 60 years during last year’s floods, he said. And meteorologists are predicting this year’s rainy season – which starts this month and runs through November – won’t be any tamer than last year’s (NT, April 18).

The government has long-term plans to relocate the riverside squatter community, known as “barrio Rodolfo López,” and reforest the land they inhabit with 30,000 trees and plants. The town of Sebaco, in the southern Matagalpa foothills, is a likely site for a possible relocation of the community, Montoya said.

“The people aren’t going to move right now,” he said, “but we’re in talks with them.” In the meantime, MARENA has begun work on the levy, which is to be completed in mid-June – before the heaviest of the rains.


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