This year, Lake Maracaibo has been constantly in the news due to the high level of pollution which is evident on its shores. Environmental experts agree that one of the causes is hydrocarbon leaks, but also the shutdown of sewage treatment plants in Zulia State.
Julio Montoya, a former deputy of the legitimate National Assembly, demanded Nicolás Maduro’s regime to put hypocrisy aside and “dejar de hablar paja” (stop talking straw, stop de BS).
He urged the authorities to take care of Lake Maracaibo, because the Institute for the Conservation of Lake Maracaibo (Iclam) ‘disappeared’.
In Montoya’s opinion, around eight sewage treatment plants are offline and/or dismantled in Zulia State.
In the Lagunillas Municipality, the Ciudad Ojeda plant is inoperative, and has been cannibalized and destroyed. This building was inaugurated in 2006 by the late President Hugo Chávez Frías, with an investment at that time of almost 300 billion bolivars.
“On the second day, this plant went into full stop, because the system did not work as expected. I would like to know which of the 27 plants in Zulia that Reverol (Minister of Electric Power) announced that they would recover. Here only eight were completed, we call for a diagnosis, rescue and protection of the little that still remains,” said the former parliamentarian.
Montoya indicated that there are no water treatment plants with a useful life left in the region, a situation that he classified as ‘barbaric’.
“The Zulia water treatment plants were ambitious projects, designed and executed through the Law of Public Credit and Sanitation of Lake Maracaibo. The disbursement of these resources began in the second term of President Rafael Caldera,” recalled Montoya.
Sewage is killing the lake
He, who is also vice president of Primero Justicia, remarked that the lake is sick. “How could it not be if the sewage from the entire Eastern Coast of the Lake, a large part of the urban areas and the South of the Lake have been reaching this Zulia state estuary for years, hence the collapse,” he explained.
Luis Augusto Martínez, councilor for the Lagunillas Municipality, said that the pump system in charge of sucking the sewage to be processed is also broken.
Sadly, throughout the jurisdiction it is normal to see sewage flowing through streets, patios and broken pipes.
“The core problem of the lake is the direct discharge of sewage into it. It is the waste of almost 400,000 people that reaches the lake, there is no filter. Our lake is sick, dying, and the regime turns a blind eye,” he said.
In the mayor’s opinion, the Ciudad Ojeda treatment plant, as it is known, is a good setting to record a Jurassic Park movie: the infrastructure and the oxidation lagoon are lost covered by the undergrowth.
Rosa Díaz lives in the “Luis Salazar II” neighborhood and told lapatilla.com that this last year in the area has been terrible: the collapse of sewage, living with offal reflux inside the houses, not being able to use the bathroom, and gastrointestinal illnesses and skin disorders are the order of the day.
“Here we had to plug the sewage collector tank so as not to have the house full of feces. We cannot use the bathroom. Since there is a large patio at my sister’s house, we dug a well and the two families relieve ourselves there,” she said.
Another unfulfilled promise of chavismo
In the Cabimas municipality, the sewage treatment plant is also paralyzed. An inhabitant of the El Suiche sector of that jurisdiction and who preferred not to reveal his identity, said that he used to work there and was at the inauguration of the treatment plant called ‘El Suiche’.
He sadly recalled the words of the late President Hugo Chávez Frías, who inaugurated it in June 2004. The investment in this treatment plant was 70 billion bolivars.
“We are going across the lake, we are going to save it”: shouted Hugo Chávez at the inauguration as recalled by the sick sixty-year-old.
Mery Ávila also lives in the El Suiche sector and said that the day the plant was inagurated is still engraved in her mind. She remains hopeful that it can still be recovered and put to work. Fortunately for the inhabitants of Cabimas, much of the infrastructure is intact, it has not been ransacked as in other municipalities.
“The day this started, the foam could be seen reaching to the sky, the trucks came in, the engine and machinery could be heard, but this did not last very long. Afterwards, the trucks only came in to empty the waste and left,” she recounted.
In Cabimas, the scenario observed in Lagunillas, La Cañada, San Francisco and the Southern Lake is repeated: the wastewater has been going directly to the Zulian estuary for more than a decade.
Julio Montoya, political leader in Zulia, said that he will continue to denounce the abandonment of the sewage plants. He believes that a health crisis could soon break out due to the contact of citizens with sewage.
Furthermore, he informed that he will go to the Attorney General of the Republic to file the complaint. He hopes that an environmental prosecutor will be appointed with a multidisciplinary team to inspect and verify the abandonment of these great works.
Project to collect plastic
For the mechanical engineer Luis Cabrera, the excess of plastics on the shores of the lake is serious. Added to this is the stoppage of sewage treatment plants and the hydrocarbon leaks. All these factors keep Lake Maracaibo in intensive therapy.
Cabrera, winner of the Word Federation Young Engineers Future Leaders (YE/FL) 2018 Unesco/Paris, Solar Energy Project for Hospitals, designed an alternative proposal that will help collect excess plastic on the shores, quickly and with little staff.
The engineer explained that in the elaboration or purchase of the machine, fewer resources will be invested than those required than having crews of men and women collecting the plastic waste manually.
“The machine will be operated by one person and could collect around 500 kilos of garbage per day. With this machine, the collection of plastic along the entire coast of the estuary would be faster, cheaper and easier,” he said.
Cabrera announced that he is working on the creation of a law that controls the sale of products in plastic containers, since they are not biodegradable. He believes that an effective solution would be to offer the products in returnable containers, as they do in first world countries and some Caribbean islands.
On August 2nd, was held the first session of the Popular Scientific Technical Meeting for the Rescue, Conservation and Sustainable Development of Lake Maracaibo, promoted by the regime, and with the participation of representatives of the Maduro, regional and municipal administrations. From that meeting it has only been known that materials for the collection of solid waste on the shores of the lake were delivered to the mayors of the region.
In this plenary it was announced that the first balance on the sanitation of the lake would be reported on November 18th, three and a half months after the installation of the meeting.
Regarding the core problem of the contamination of Lake Maracaibo associated with the leaks and the stoppage of the plants, no details have been made known so far.