Floods in the Coast
Climate change is a serious problem around the world nowadays. The changing of the clime based on statistics presents extreme weather events that has never occurred in many countries. These modifications are caused by natural Earth’s process that has affected our planet for million years as we know based on geological evidence. But, certain human activities have damage many ecosystems causing the “Global Warming”.
Global warming is the rise of the normal temperature in the Earth. Many scientist are sure that this phenomenon is mostly caused by the irresponsible human way of managing natural resources and the levels of contaminations produced by factories, cars and products that destroys the ozone layer. This negligent actions have caused that the weather starts changing in an overwhelmed way in many places manifesting earthquakes, floods, rising sea levels, changing precipitations, expansion of deserts, heavy snowfalls, species extinctions and others.
The United Nations indicates that the “rising sea levels, changes in the pattern of precipitation, melting glaciers, changes in agricultural regions and the development of diseases that were eradicated are the most important effects of global warming in Latin America.” (UN, 2015). Even though, 27 countries in Latin America have ratified the Kyoto protocol that prevents countries to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, these kind of problem in the region are difficult to control because of the millions of dollars that requires that kind of state programs.
In the case of Ecuador, floods are one of the most serious problems. Regions in our country are very different and that is why floods are common in the Coast, because of the low lands. In the Coast exists mainly three places for living, and each one of it is affected by the floods in a different way. These are the cities, the countryside and the beach.
It is important to clarify that in Ecuador there are only two weather periods instead of the four traditional seasons in other countries around the world. They are the raining season identified as summer and the non-raining season known as winter even though there is no snowfalls in Ecuador. The summer is the hottest time of the year because of the warm sea current called “El niño” and it goes from the months of December to April or May. The winter is less hot than the other season but it is not considered cold, it goes from June to November and the sea current that visit the Coast in this period is the cold “Current of Humboldt”. The months of beginning seasons are likeable to change a little.
As the first example of what happens in Ecuador with the floods, we have the issues on the city of Guayaquil. It is the biggest and most populated city of Ecuador and is one of the most affected for this phenomenon. It was founded on the banks of the Guayas River and it is crossed by the “Estero Salado”. Guayaquil is composed of 347 km², of which 91.9% of the total, belong to the land, while the other 8.1% belong to water bodies comprising rivers and estuaries. But, are those reasons for flooding?
Being at the same level of the sea and having a sea entrance (estuaries) in the middle of the city makes it more susceptible to the rising sea levels. Also, the human neglect of littering in the streets may clog sewers covering the water leak and causing floods when there is a strong raining. Also the illegal settlements in places where there is not potable water and sewerage complicates the situation in the city.
The situation is so critical in the Coast Region that, in September 2015, the government declared schools have to end the class year in January (instead of March) because of the menace of the “Fenómeno del Niño” that would cause strong precipitations and floods. Now, in February of 2016, there is not such heavy rainfalls as the Oceanographic Institute of the Navy (INOCAR) declared last year, but there has been a couple of serious torrents that put the city completely upside-down.
On January 19 2016, there was a huge precipitation in Guayaquil and some close towns. The inflow lasted more than 12 hours of raining, it caused a stock that reached 1.20 mts tall from the ground of water in sectors like Juan Tanca Marengo Avenue and Martha de Roldos neighborhood. The outflow took at least 6 hours to drain the water and come back to the normality. As a feedback, the flood caused by the heavy rain produced traffic, damaged cars and damages in some houses because of the level of the water.
As a second examination about what happens in the Coast of Ecuador, it is important to review the situation of the people who lives in the countryside. They depends on the farming and the exact amount of precipitations that could help their cultivation to grow and not to kill them but, year after year the farmers lost part of their fruits and vegetables. The heavy amount of precipitations in the zone, where there is always a river very close, make the rivers grow and overflows covering the plantations and generating lost for the farmers.
In the province of Los Ríos the situation is also very dangerous. The inflow are entire days of raining, and the stock is the union of the rain water and the overflow of the rivers. Due to feedback in 2010, more than 70 families in the canton Montalvo were uncommunicated after the Santa Rosa river overflowed and damaged part of the access road. The outflow took more than a month to recover the normal river flow because of the constant precipitations. (Cuenca University, 2011)
On the other hand, the situation in the beaches is similar but it affects the population in a different way. In many shores the surge turns violent with the big amount of precipitations and the level of the sea starts rising up. This event injures the fishermen that stops going to the sea because it could be very dangerous for their little boats. It also damages the shore, the piers and many restaurants near the coasts.
On May 2015, being not an isolated case, the inflow water coming from the sea stock in the beach where normally the bathers are. There were plenty of feedbacks but mainly the damage of the jetty and the large pieces of rock riprap, which were swept away by the tide, obstructing the road Anconcito-Punta Carnero. The outflow took more than 10 hours to recover the normal surge in the zone. (INOCAR, 2015)
Finally, it is important to say that the heavy precipitations causes damages not only in the Ecuadorian Coast but in all South America seashores. Likewise it is a problem in big cities and the rural areas where the situation is similar to ours in Ecuador. The rain also harms certain zones on the Andean Highlands where it causes landslides that affects roads and overflowing rivers that harms the plantations.
The floods affect many zones in the Ecuadorian Coast, but in spite of these situations the national government makes efforts with zonal governments to offset the negative effects of the strong rains. Not only the material losses, but the diseases that appears in this time of the year that harms mostly to the child population. The presence of dengue, zika, chingunya and skin rashes because of the stock waters are strong concerns for the residents of tropical weather places.
Cuenca University, 2012. Flood hazard mapping in Mountain Rivers. Recovered from: http://www.ucuenca.edu.ec/ojs/index.php/maskana/article/viewFile/396/339
United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2013. Climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean: current status and opportunities. Recovered from: http://www.pnuma.org/geo/geo5/GEO%205%20ESPANOL%202013%20WEB.pdf
Secretary of risk management, 2014. Threat Flood: monthly scenario. Recovered from: http://www.gestionderiesgos.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2014/04/Escenario_ENERO_Inundaci%C3%B3n_Mensual_1.pdf