The rains keep coming down and the streets of Belize City keep flooding. It’s an accepted thing because we know it WILL happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant. Owners of small vehicles, for example, face the risk of stalling on streets with as much as six to eight inches of water, while traffic, already a convoluted, congested mess, tests even the calmest nerves. Interestingly, the flooding occurs on those cement streets, of which Mayor Darrell Bradley is extraordinarily proud. Who would build brand new cement streets and not install proper drainage on those streets? Mike Rudon tracked down the mayor today to get some insight into a confounding problem. Here’s that story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink! But there is enough to completely flood main city streets, from end to end…enough to stall engines and frustrate pedestrians…and more than enough to make negotiating traffic an exercise in frustration.
Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor
“The problem fundamentally is that Belize is at sea level, so we are always going to have to live with water. What we have noticed doing our assessment is that the concreted streets have been able to withstand the heavy barrage of rainfall, and we have done a better job – not as best as we can – in terms of cleaning out the drains so that the water dissipates as reasonably soon after the rainfall as possible. The reality is that we are a city that will be inundated with water especially when we have such heavy rains as we’ve had recently, and the best that the municipality can do is to ensure that the streets are properly done so that for example on Freetown Road you’re driving but you are not driving on potholes and that we clear out the drains in advance of the rains which we have been doing.”
You’ll notice the Mayor said that his newly cemented streets have been able to withstand the rainfall. We’re guessing that he isn’t referring to flooding, since it is those cement streets in particular where drainage has been a particularly vexing problem, not only after heavy rains but even after relatively light rains. The water just does not flow off. That is the reality, even, ironically, in front of City Hall.
“We have given a lot of thought in terms of the drainage situation. This is why for example we’re doing the Flood Mitigation Project. This is why we spent one point eight million dollars on drainage works on some of those newly cemented streets. And we are monitoring it. So that we have noticed that there is an improvement in terms of the flow-off of the water. It’s not where we want it to be but residents have to balance it off with us living in a municipality which is at sea-level. We did monitoring on Freetown Road and some other essential areas and we’ve actually checked the time and we’ve noticed that the runoff has gotten better since last year. Again because of the rain you’re going to have that all the time, but we’ve noticed that there have been some improvements. Can we do better? Yes. Are we doing better? Yes.”
One thing we can say about the Mayor – he does stick to his spiel…which doesn’t quite answer the question of why streets which never flooded before are now flooding every time the skies open! So we tried asking again – is there something, drainage wise, which was neglected when those awesome cement streets were constructed.
“We can’t afford to do that on every street. And we did a survey, I remember I had this discussion previously, and we asked people if they prefer only drains or only carriageway bearing in mind that the city in many cases cannot afford both, and the emphasis was on we want the carriageway done first. So that for example we did Calle al Mar, we did those streets. We left extensive drain space. The Flood Mitigation Project is coming in now and they’re doing the drains and putting in canals, so that should be an ease of flow. So what we have done is we did a part with our infrastructure, in contemplation that we’re going to come back in many of the areas when we get additional funding to finish the work properly with really nice drains. But drains cost money, and we’re working with a municipality that is under a budget and we’re doing the best we can.”
So there it is. Cement streets – check. Drainage – not so check! We also note that on very many of those cement streets it would not be financially viable, or even rational, to go back and put in drainage, since that would mean breaking up those streets. Mike Rudon for News Five.
A few weeks ago when the city was inundated, there were young boys fishing for ‘cato’ on the street in front of City Hall. We’re pretty sure they caught a couple too.