For weeks now, we've been covering the situation with the Yabra canal which is silted up at the mouth. The City Council has been trying valiantly to clear out a channel and restore the normal flow, but the siltation just keeps coming back. That's why today we were surprised to hear that - instead of returning to that same solution they have a whole new approach to rehabilitate the entire Collet and East Canal systems - and it uses some very high science! Engineer Lucien Chung explained:
"Explain to me how this phenomenon that we see and we think: bway well, we could solve it, just trench out this area; it's not that simple."
Lucien Chung- Civil Engineer, Hydraulics
"It's not that simple because, as you say, it's a network, it's a system that is all interconnected. The siltation occurred because you have low flows within the canal. For various reasons, especially because of the years of siltation, you don't have the velocity- the flushing velocity helps to flush out the canal naturally. One of the proposed ideas is to put locks or sluice gates at the Haulover Creek and at the sea. And at the sea, we'll also put some huge screw type pumps to help evacuate the canals if necessary or when necessary. What that project will help to do is to assist the canal to flush out artificially. The sluice gates will create an isolated network, but because it's isolated it gives the flexibility to evacuate the canal or isolate it from high tied; that kind of thing."
Phillip Willoughby- City Council
"I think this is a completely 360 degree from where we were when we saw the silt building up towards the Mixed Avenue bridge. I am one personally extremely grateful, I'm certain that the residents within the Yabra and East Collect, West Collect canal area and the entire residents living around these canals are extremely grateful. We couldn't wait for this; it came at an opportune time. Ultimately I believe we will be controlling the flooding to a great extent."
The proposal is part of the IDB Draianage project part 2 which carries a hefty price tag. How much? Try 8 million US dollars! It's just in the design phase and Chung is just doing data collection at this time. The earliest possible completion date would be in two years time.
City Flooding PersistsBut, if you live in Belize City, and you cannot even get out of your house without getting wet up to your ankles - even after just the slightest rain, then all that high tech talk about sluice gates, and special pumps is just "yakkety-yak".
That's what regular folks in our neighborhood on Dean And King Streets have been putting up with this week with the recent rains. Again, we asked the mayor for answers. He said the big truck is coming soon:...
Darrell Bradley, Mayor - Belize City
"We were supposed to have this week the transfer of equipment which includes a pump truck and that should have happen this week. That's going to happen next week, because we have to do more renovations at our mile 4 facility just to accommodate the access into our premises for these various equipment."
"That is going to increase our capacity to deal with flooding in a more significant strategic way. We also created a flood mitigation unit at the City Council so that we have units in our council who all they do is deal with flooding and drainage. They do access ways, you've rightly pointed out because we do monitor this that the run off time has been lessen, so that there is improvement and I think with the additional equipment, I think with the additional focus and I think with the additional resources that we have deploy towards to this area, residents will see additional relief in relation to the flooding."
US $8 Million and 2 Years to Fix Collet Canal
Over the past few months, we have shown you the massive silt build up in the Yabra Canal. The City Council and other partners have been doing the ground work to chart a way forward to clear the canal. Today, CitCo started with the extraction of the silt, but this preparatory work is a second phase of the flood mitigation plan that will target the Collet and the East Collet Canal networks. It is being facilitated by the Inter-American Development Bank, through an eight million U.S. dollar loan, to get the area up to standard. But only part of the works will be completed under this phase two and it will take some two years for the actual work to start. Today, we spoke with an IDB Consultant and Belize City Councillor to explain the scope of work being undertaken in the Yabra Canal area.
Lucien Chung, Consultant, IDB
“The second phase is looking at rehabilitating the collet and east collet canal networks. What we are doing here is to do a small channel within this siltation, this blockage that we have here so that I can allow water or hoping that the water flows naturally and in the process I will be collecting data; hydraulic data.”
“Now, you are saying it is a small channel not the entire thing; what is the reason for not doing the entire thing?”
“To do the entire thing that is a major project in itself. Under a component of the phase of the project will look at dredging the entire two canals. They have something close to 8 million US for this project; so it includes dredging, includes putting locks at the end of the canals, rehabilitating some of the perpendicular streets, drainage that goes to these canals. So, those are some of the main components under this project.”
“Of course, we are already in the Hurricane Season, by when would these works be expected to be completed?”
“Oh these works maybe another two years before they start. As you can see, data collection, these data will be fed into computer models where we will be simulating the canal system and coming up with the best infrastructure. So, this is just the start.”
Philip Willoughby, Councilor, Belize City Council
“When we get the hurricanes, the canals can act as a deterrent and assist in the outlet of overflowing streets, inundated streets, inundated yards where water is concerned and flooding. So, we need these canals to work with us and for us. With the project, it will give the council and other agencies sitting at the table, the ability to at least control to a great extent the ebb and flow of the water. As you know, the silt that has been excavated thus far will be on the canals, now if it gets hot it becomes dusty and people inhaling this and it is unhealthy for breathing and for your eyes; the smell is uncouth you would say but we have done our post-mortem since the last time this type of work has been done. So, the National Fire Service will be out here four-thirty to five to wash off the entire length of the canal where this silt was set.”