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News :: International
Mexico's 911 Waiting for the Perfect Storm
02 Jun 2007
"Mexico City is at risk of flooding of the kind that devastated New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina if authorities don´t take steps to unclog the canals, reservoirs and lagoons that make up the municipal sewer system, experts warn."
Mexico City might face Katrina-scale flooding

Miércoles 23 de mayo de 2007
"Mexico City is at risk of flooding of the kind that devastated New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina if authorities don´t take steps to unclog the canals, reservoirs and lagoons that make up the municipal sewer system, experts warn.
An intense stench rises over the houses of some 300,000 people living on the city´s west side because of the raw sewage running through a network of unlined canals 89 kilometers (55 miles) long and held by a system of 13 reservoirs, most of them clogged with mud, trash and organic waste.

The foul liquid moves through what more than 70 years ago was a system of hillsides, slopes and gullies feeding the rivers of the Mexican capital, but which were largely removed to be used for sand and gravel in the 1930s.

Untold thousands of shanties are crowded on the slopes of the hills a few kilometers from Santa Fe, the development center for modern and luxurious apartments and gleaming corporate headquarters.


Rogerio Rojo, an expert in water management with the Mexican firm Tecnoagua, has been studying for three years the hills in this sector of the capital, namely the borough of Álvaro Obregón, and he warns that the reservoirs must be cleaned of mud immediately.

"If the hillsides are not recovered, it´s possible that the city will flood" since the earthworks and reservoirs are not holding the water because of the mud that fills them, he told EFE.

Of the 13 reservoirs, "12 are at their limit" and none of them has the capacity to hold even another 100 cubic meters (3,400 cubic feet) of water, he said.

A strong rainy season could put too much pressure on the dams and breach them, releasing a monstrous wave of putrid wastewater down the hillsides into the lower neighborhoods of the capital, he said.

This year, several sectors of the capital have suffered severe flooding after downpours, and in some homes the water was up to the residents´ knees.

The municipal secretary of Civil Protection, Miguel Elías Moreno, said the problem is due to the fact that 50 percent of the city´s deep drainage piping is clogged with mud and waste.

Moreno said that authorities have noted 28 risk locations where maximum flooding could occur during the current rainy season, which lasts from May to October.

Government weather forecaster Alberto Hernández said this year it is expected that Mexico City will get more rain than is typical.

Even if the dire omens of a historic flood are not fulfilled, "at least the problem of the dams and the sewage system should be resolved as a simple question of public health," said one doctor serving a marginal neighborhood in Álvaro Obregón.


Dr. Julieta Colón, who practices at and runs a small social health center in the area, said that every week she receives an average of five patients with illnesses stemming from the tainted environment.

Humberto Morgan, a leftist member of the Mexico City legislative assembly, is seeking to rehabilitate the sewage infrastructure and the dams.

Morgan, who estimates that it will require at least US$280 million to divert the sewage into underground pipes, is joining with Technoagua to push an alternate project at a cost of US$130 million.

His idea is to establish water purification systems for the runoff on the hillsides so that it can be used for irrigation.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood children kick their soccer balls around next to the flowing sewage that cascades down to reservoirs that are filling more and more each day with mud and which will - for the next five months - be inundated with the added water from the rainy season."

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