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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.
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
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.
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?)
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%.
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.
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.”
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!
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?
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?
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