Though the projected path was over Monkey River, the sheer width of the cloud cover reached the former capital, Belize City. The City is also experiencing flooding in the aftermath of Tropical Depression Two. The major problem associated with the downpour is the lack of drainage. Overnight, streets that have been recently cemented with proceeds from the municipal bond have become riddled with huge pot holes. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The concretization of a hundred streets in Belize City over a period of two years is perhaps the quintessence of the adage ‘progress brings problems’. The wet season began just two weeks ago and, as ambitious as the municipal project is, the streets that the mayor has built are already being tested rigorously. While structural integrity doesn’t seem to be an issue, heavy rainfall over the past forty-eight hours shows that very little has been done about drainage.
Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor
“The streets that we had constructed are holding up quite nicely but of course the concern continues to be flooding and we are seeing concerns expressed in the Lake I community, in Port Loyola off Jane Usher Boulevard, even in the downtown areas. Right next to us on Handyside Street we are seeing major, serious flooding as a result of poor drainage conditions, so that continues to be the concern from residents.”
Indeed, less than a stone’s throw away from City Hall, homes and businesses along Handyside Street are engulfed by water. Like other thoroughfares across the Old Capital, it is also inundated. In the Lake Independence area, where works on a number of streets were recently completed, outflow is very much a problem.
“We had our works people going throughout the city, particularly on the south side and we were digging out a substantial amount of earthen drains. What we also do with our infrastructure project is that we ensure there is a drainage component in all the works program so that the streets may not involve the concreting of drains but there is the clearing of drains, the sloping of drains, there is the ensuring that the drains are connected to some outflow so that the water can go somewhere.”
At the corners of Flamboyant Street and Fern Lane it is evident that the height of the cemented path is critical to drainage. Instead of flowing out into the nearby river, rainwater has settled on the low-lying street, as well as in the adjacent properties. In Belama Phase Four the problem is much worse. The streets here are not paved, nor have they been upgraded since they were built.
Urbano Flores, Resident, Belama Phase Four
“Da noh wah political game we di play, we di talk ‘bout human needs that everybody could live eena wah betta condition because then di wata da really wah big problem. We cyant stop God nature but at di same time membas ah di government suppose to give we at least wah lee assistance so dat people condition back ya could improve instead of children di get sick everyday when dehn haffi tek off dehn shoes and walk through the same wata.”
The condition is so deplorable in this neighborhood that a makeshift wooden bridge was erected to allow for residents to traverse from one block to another, avoiding the waterlogged streets altogether.
“Fahn when you come from out yandasoh, Apollo Street, da lone wata and mud and worse dis big pool weh dehn seh da Green Street. So we need wahn lee attention man, at least give we da lee privilege. We could be happy because yes, maybe everybody no di pay dehn property tax or lease land but we still could have better living conditions.”
“The area of Belama Phase Four, residents in that particular community have been complaining perennially about the flood situation, the street conditions and the fact that children have to traverse that area to go to school and the depth of the water puts their lives at risk and what have you. Is there anything immediate to address that issue?”
“The word immediate is always a problem because, as you had rightly pointed out, you would want to ensure that everything is done, everything that’s done is done with the advice of experts, technical people who will advise you how to do things properly and we have identified a significant amount of resources that will go into that area.”
Until then, residents are exposed to waterborne illnesses.
“Some people get sick, we catch infections on our foot because the water here, we risk ringworm and all kinds of diseases. The water, it’s not like it’s running water. It stays stagnant and it causes a lot of risk.”
Meanwhile, when asked about dividing the cost of building new streets and installing adequate drainage, Mayor Bradley says that the people prefer better streets over drainage.
“The major sentiment that I got is that people prefer to have a concrete carriageway as opposed to having carriageway and drains. Of course, if they had their way they would pick both and ideally, if we had our way, in terms of having the necessary amount of funds, we would do a perfect project but that’s not the world we live in. We have budgetary concerns, twenty million dollars is not enough to do all the work that we would want.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.