“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
El Matal (Manabi Province) Ecuador
A big “Thanks” goes to all of you for your concern and support for the people who are facing the ocean’s wrath at the little fishing village of El Matal, Ecuador. Your comments are appreciated not only by me but also by my friends who live or own property there. With slow internet, this has been difficult to write and proof, so all mistakes are definitely mine. Thanks again, everyone… Z
We can talk about what has happened in the past, and what might have been (So easy to say on hindsight!) but the community now faces the ‘What can we do about this?’ dilemma. No single person or even a collective group of property owners can afford the expense* for the options that have proven successful in other coastal areas of the world. (*If by chance you CAN afford the expense, would you please take one giant step forward NOW?!)
The required red tape through proper channels from the Canton of Jama to the Province of Manabi and finally to Quito seems to move laterally from department to department without advancing. It’s easy to judge and advise from the comfort of an unthreatened vantage point, a little like self-diagnosing a pestering rasp in the throat as ‘asthma’ or ‘allergies,’ or a sore shoulder as ‘bursitis’ or ‘tendinitis.’ It’s best to see a specialist who is trained in that field instead of treating the problem with liberal-arts knowledge.
For that reason many people respect the advice give by coastal specialist, Engineer Daniel Santana, who recommended the use of oversized sand bags for temporary protection until a more-permanent solution could be implemented. He has worked with the United States Corps of Engineers and on other critical coastal areas worldwide. and brings a portfolio of lifetime experience. “There can be no break in the line of protection,” he stressed. “To be effective, there has to be a continuous line from one end to the other.”
In February most people agreed that this option would help the homeowners, yet a wall of sandbags would have a negative impact on the fishermen and the launching and return of their boats.
GeoTubes, Santana said, would start rebuilding sand immediately and has been proven in many areas of the world. Until steps for a more-permanent solution were made, the sand bags would buy time and help protect the beach from spring tides.
“Muy grave;” he repeatedly stressed that this was very serious, and work should start immediately. He pointed out that rocks were not the solution, and the (emergency) rock being used (February 2014) was the wrong type. A higher-quality material should be used.
In February and March (2014) without aid from the developer or municipality, some of the property owners of Coco Beach Village pooled their money and purchased the giant sand bags and followed Engineer Santana’s recommendations. With approval of the Ecuadorian Navy, the few owners on the ground coordinated the installation of over 600 bags to form a continuous line in an effort to protect the entire development for the short term.
The ocean remained quiet for seven months then awakened with a roar in September and began chomping more unprotected areas of the beach. The line along Coco Beach homes remained strong. I learned of this problem while I was in Mississippi, and I saw where a search for “El Matal State of Emergency” led someone to this blog site.
I wrote my El Matal friends and was told that high waves were taking bites of the middle section of the beach. The new mayor, Angel Rojas, had declared the state of emergency. Without aid from the municipality, Victor, the owner of Restaurante Punta de Victor, bought 30 of the large sand bags and placed a double row across the quickly-vanishing area in front of his restaurant. The next high-tide set of angry waves gobbled 4 or so meters of beach on each side and proved the validity of the concept.
Over the next month, the waves lapped around the edges of the bags and also proved Sr. Santana’s wisdom, ‘It has to be a continuous line or it won’t work.’ This past week we witnessed the failure, strictly due to the lack of a continuous wall of bags.
The municipality began installing sand bags and back filling with lastre/broken shards of rock, which worked temporarily. The ocean attacked again before the line was finished. The shards cut through the bags and protective plastic. The walls came tumbling down, and the ocean advanced and rooted beneath the asphalt road, which crumbled and fell victim as well.
Reserving the natural space for the boats has backfired, as the fishermen return from sea with the customary full-throttle approach. Yesterday I watched as two different boats slammed into the fallen asphalt and crumbling rocks. Hearing the loud ‘THUD-CRACK-silence‘ twists a knot into any bystander’s stomach. Luckily both hulls survived impact but will carry the scars as reminders.
One admires people who face adversaries and trot along with noble hearts. How one handles those challenges shows one’s true character. To put on a genuine smile or a courageous face while the dragon knocks at the door – THAT’S what touches the hearts of mankind.
These noble warriors are teaching all of us lessons. We should sometimes step back and look inward; when Life presents challenges, do we stand stoic and brave and trot along with little swords held in front of us? Do we cower and retreat to a corner and wait until someone tells us it’s safe to come out? Do we get angry and lash out at our loved ones because they will love us even when our own person dragons emerge? Do we remember to be kind to others, even if we are suffering inside?
We are all on our own personal paths, and we are not all wired to be courageous and strong. We learn from the examples of others, whether they are positive examples or negative ones. I try to remind myself during difficult times that LIfe has placed a challenge in my path, and it’s my duty to embrace and conquer it wile keeping my dignity and spirit. When I lose focus, I usually forget and allow ego to step forward, and that is never the correct or pretty choice. It’s one that leads to regret.
Those who step forward with their little swords of courage are great teachers. While I witness the solidarity of the people at El Matal, my friend Debbie keeps us informed regarding clever dragons threatening Isla Ometepe in Nicaragua. If you’ve not read about the escalating crisis about the proposed canal, start here: Rewired & Retired in Nicaragua. http://retirenicaragua.wordpress.com (the link won’t work.. will be back later!)
Thanks again for your comments and concern for my neighbors at El Matal. Your support helps, especially when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
All the residents and your neighbors will remain in my thoughts. The lack of foresight of government and municipal entities is heartbreaking. Good luck and god bless.
Playamart - Zeebra Designs said:
i think they’ll have a short break until the next full moon. hopefully the sand will rebuild and will once again be a beach of classic beauty.
Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua said:
This is so heartbreaking. Why oh why didn’t they make a continuous line of large sand bags when they were first told. Is it because of cost? Is it too late to get large sandbags? Is it still a temporary solution or is it too late?
Then, I look at the smiling faces of the people. You are right. These noble warrios are teaching us a lesson. Thanks for the update, Lisa. And don’t get me started about the Dragon breathing fire on Ometepe Island. 😦
Angeline M said:
Very good photos to show us the environment and what is/has happened there. The people of El Matal are very courageous; I send them all blessings.
This is so sad…devastating, I’m sure, to watch and be a part of it. My heart goes out to you and to these good people for the struggle ahead. Thanks for broadening my world vision, Lisa!
All will remain in my prayers.
Really, this is heart-breaking. There are so many issues: natural forces, competing interests, bureaucratic foot-dragging. Sometimes, things do work out. May it be so!
The changes since 2014 are incredible, and yet people still smile!
Thanks for sharing this. Unfortunately, this is what the future holds for coastal villages. The people without funds and support will continue to suffer the brunt of encroaching water due to climate change. The planners need to plan for a meter rise in the sea level by 2100 and that might still be short, so some cushion needs to be used on that, as it may reach a meter sooner. Honest assessment of what can be done is essential., so that you can invest where you can make a huge difference. The courage and sense of community is amazing. Best wishes on getting as much help as you can. BTG
Alli Farkas said:
Lack of funding and resources seems like a crime when the knowledge and the willingness to work is already in place. It is tragic that there has to be this rich/poor divide among humanity that ends up in untold suffering for the majority of our fellow humans.
I’m hoping the break will give them a little time to help rebuild the sand barriers and rock walls. The time frames of your photographs would be so helpful to researchers. It’s very sad.
Tish Farrell said:
Such brave efforts in the face of a relentless tide. Those of us who do not have to face such difficult odds to simply survive and make a living should consider ourselves well blessed. We also need to keep speaking up whenever the nay-sayers claim there is nothing that needs to be done by us to deal with climate change.
Playamart - Zeebra Designs said:
thanks, tish; yes, sometimes we feel we’re being too assertive, but there are times when it’s very important to speak up. thank you so much, and the people of el matal surely thank you as well. z
Books & Art - Spirit & Soul - Lesley Fletcher said:
Such a precarious situation for all involved! A united front and tremendous effort and faith will prevail I hope.
Playamart - Zeebra Designs said:
thank you.. they’ll be working next week on installing new sandbags in weak areas… they mayor has been a good listener and hopefully he’ll be able to make a positive difference.
How much of the beach has disappeared? There looks to be very little shoreline before reaching the buildings. It looks terrible and I feel so sad for the people whose livelihoods will be lost.
Too little too late…..that is the story behind most preventable disasters in the third world. Keeping your brave neighbours in my thoughts and prayers Lisa. Their smiles are humbling.
Playamart - Zeebra Designs said:
thank you. the really bad tides hit last new year’s and in february… it’s like waiting for a shoe to drop, and those that have the sand bags have a bit more buffer than the others.