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Waving valiantly, this flag joins many along El Matal's fishing fleet. But many fishermen are not with their boats - they are attending the public meeting about their vanishing beach.

Waving valiantly, this flag joins many others in El Matal’s fishing fleet.
At noon on Valentine’s Day, many fishermen were not with their boats – they were attending the public meeting about their vanishing beach.

El Matal (Manabi) Ecuador

Residents of El Matal and concerned citizens from nearby areas displayed a united front at the public meeting to discuss the critical status of the eroding beach.   Engineer Daniel Santata, a coastal specialist, joined the Minister of Pescadores and the Director of Risk (Portoviejo), though the meeting began without the presence of Mayor/Alcade Alex Cevallos.

Where beach restaurants once stood,  a withering young palm stands guard while 70-plus locals gather for the community meeting.

Where beach restaurants once punctuated the public beach, a withering young palm stood guard while 70-plus locals gathered for the community meeting.

Because of difficulty in understanding sometimes rapid-fire Spanish, and straining to grasp what I heard through the outdoor acoustics, I apologize in advance for errors in translation.  The essence of the meeting follows.  Z

Daniel Santana advises to act now - the consequenses are muygrave.

Daniel Santana advises to act now – the consequences are muy grave.

Stressing that time was critical, and the situation was muy grave (very serious) Sr. Santana said that Coco Beach Village is more at risk than El Matal because of lower elevation.  (The home featured in “It’s Devastating” is located in Coco Beach Village.)   He said that a short term solution needs to be in place for Coco Beach Village before the end of March.  Reminding us that normal aguajis come every two weeks, he said that variables like strong winds could make them more destructive.

He also said that rocks and walls are not solutions. Rocks will speed the erosion, and walls will eliminate the beach and are unlikely to be stable; they will collapse. (When he said this, I wanted to stand and applaud! Finally! A specialist confirmed my concerns -see: Nature Bites Back- Nature Speaks.!)

Geotubes, strategically placed, would be less costly and could start rebuilding sand immediately.  Fishermen could fish,  tourists could swim and the residents could again feel safe in their homes.

Ministry of Fisheries said that the President wants El Matal developed.  Last year the municipality was advised to begin work to protect the beach; the municipality was to follow up and did not.

Fishermen, home owners, concerned neighbors from Jama - all join hnads and show a united front - What can we do about this?

Fishermen, home owners, concerned neighbors from Jama – all joined forces to show a united front.

Like a student showing up for final exams without prepping for the test, our mayor did show up, just before the meeting was over;  he said that the municipality has no funds to help.  (What criteria of importance made him place sidewalk construction ahead of saving the beach?)

Two weeks before the February 01 destructive aguaji, the municipality was building sidewalks for El Matal!

Two weeks before the February 01 destructive aguaji, the municipality was building sidewalks for El Matal!

The Director of Risk from Portoviejo said that the cost of the study and solution is often shared 50/50 with the municipality, but if the municipality really does not have the money another department may fund 100%.

The panel of experts ilustrate united body English...

As the mayor defended his opinions, the panel of experts illustrated united body English as if to say, “Don’t blame us!  We’re here to help!”

Sharing wisdom gleaned from experience

Sharing wisdom gleaned from experience

After the meeting, Raquel Brito urged Mayor Cevallos to listen to (and respect) Daniel Santana’s counsel. We are hopeful that government red tape does not delay immediate action.

Comparing notes - after the meeting.  El Matal Ecuador

Comparing notes – after the meeting. El Matal Ecuador

Daniel Santana explains the critical status and what should be done NOW!

Daniel Santana explains the critical status and what should be done NOW!

Our mayor, Alex Cevallos, takes Daniel Santana's telephone number.  Yes!

Our mayor, Alex Cevallos, takes Daniel Santana’s telephone number. Yes!

After the meeting, I asked Senor Santana if removing beach sand from an area a few miles up the beach would affect El Matal.  “Yes,” he said and added, “but taking sand from the beach is prohibited.”

We chuckled and said that it might be prohibited, but people have been doing it for years.  He repeated,  “Beach mining is prohibited. Beach sand should never be moved by machine.”

La Division to El Matal

A few miles up the beach at La Division…. (2012)

La Division to Don Juan

La Division to Don Juan

Engineer Santana stressed the need to act now.  As we watch chunks of concrete and asphalt crumble into the ocean, an overwhelming majority agrees – No More Delays! Make El Matal a top priority!

P1920955 jan 15 2014 el matal front line

Restaurants once anchored the beach-side entrance to El Matal. Will help arrive in time to restore the lost sand?

Each wave crashes and triggers a heavy sense of foreboding.  The moon waxes to full, wanes to new, and the tides ebb and flow.   Each wave represents the clock;  Will the community merit emergency status?  Will red tape interfere with work during critical status?

Like true sands through the hourglass, each wave crashes, reverberates along the coastline and triggers a heavy sense of foreboding to those who endured the recent coastal erosion.

After the meeting, we returned to my friends’ home,  perched on a magazine-perfect seating area and gazed across the stunning coastal scene.  Each wave brought the high tide closer;  my friends and I listened in collective silence.  Acutely aware of the ocean and its power,  we knew that each wave also brought the next aguaji a little closer.   A mood of grief washed over me, and I fought the urge to weep.  What must it feel like to be so totally helpless as if watching a bomb tick-tick-ticking down to zero? How could a sound that once lulled one to sleep now represent the threat of destruction?

P1940479

Our silent communications contradicted the idyllic scene of another day in paradise. The moon waxes to full, wanes to new, and the tides ebb and flow according to the feminine whims of Mother Ocean and Senorita Moon.

Will the community merit emergency status? Will red tape interfere with work that deserves critical status?

P1950237 coco beach village sandbags

Mother Ocean waits for no one; we’re hopeful that no one drops this ball, and the people of El Matal receive the help they deserve. Z

(Thanks, Linda of The Task at Hand, for your continued concern and support and for sharing links about the Geotube use near your area.)

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