Editorial: Beach Blanket Bunko?

At low tide a fringe of beach is visible. At high tide the waves are crashing against the sea wall. Graphic by the Alcaldia.

Beach Blanket Bunko?

Uh huh. Panama becomes a resort town, by shipping in sand and spreading it out in front of the eastern end of the Cinta Costera to make an artificial beach.

Instinctively, anyone with a functioning sense of smell who has walked across the bridge at the foot of the Matasnillo River would have sniffed the olfactory alarm. Over the years there has been a palpable reduction of that pollution, but it’s still horrible. The ill-advised public park on the Paitilla side of that river’s mouth – a face-saving measure in the wake of a Martinelli regime land grab scheme – has for its gross location never had all that much use.

The stuff that is poured into Panama Bay, however, can be controlled. For the last two decades a lot of money has been spent trying to do that, with some improvement in Panama Bay’s water quality. It’s mostly a matter of fielding a lot of inspectors and vesting them with the power to enforce already existing regulations. Often that has not been done when the polluters are sufficiently rich or politically connected. Perhaps a beach would create an interest that overrides those of the owners of buildings with improper sewage connections into storm drains, those who dispose of restaurants’ used deep fryer grease into drains when they think nobody is looking and so on.

But the sciences and technologies that are not as well known go under the heading of climate change. We know it’s happening, we know that it has been a trend for decades now, but we don’t know how fast it will go or how severe it will get. We do know that mean sea levels are slowly but steadily rising worldwide, that sea swells and the highest high tides are bringing the ocean farther inland that what used to be the high water marks all along our Pacific Side. We know that polar ice is melting, and hear warnings of big chunks that could suddenly break off and slide into the sea, causing rather immediate and significant sea level rises.

It appears that City Hall is trying to sell yet another urban development plan that’s predicated on climate change denial. This one needs to go back to the drawing board, with credible scientific consultation, public hearings and civil engineering by other than the sand haulers’ rented experts.

If President Cortizo’s promise to reform public contracting is serious, then perhaps this could be an important test. Yes, the writing of specifications with “the name and surname” of the intended bidding winner is a known quantity, as are the conflicts of interests among those who evaluate bids. So is outright bribery. But another major public contracting abuse is the boondoggle project that’s for the benefit of the construction industry rather than any public use. The Cinta Costera beach proposal has the look and smell of one of those.



Bear in mind…


There are no right answers to wrong questions.

Ursula K. Le Guin


The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.

David Brinkley


All created things are impermanent. Strive on with diligence.

Siddhartha Guatama, the Buddha
said to be his last words


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