November 19, 2004

A city paralyzed by the rain

By Luis Alonso Pérez

Rain has fallen once again over Tijuana. Theses are only the first showers of the season, but the damage they caused made it clear that some parts of the city are practically defenseless to harsh weather conditions.

Regularly the families that are most affected, are the ones that live in the East Side of Tijuana, in “Colonias” located in the outskirts of town. Houses built in high risk areas like hillsides are in danger of being swept away by rainwater or mud and rock slides. Houses built near rivers have a high risk of being flooded or destroyed.

In neighborhoods without paved streets like Esperanza, mudslides cover the whole street. When people leave their homes they can slip or fall into deep water puddles. Cars can’t go up hills, and when they drive down they can slide or have braking problems.

Difficult access to “colonias” also means garbage disposal problems, so large amounts of trash build up for several days. Many neighborhoods east of Tijuana simply don’t have garbage collection at all during heavy rains.

Two areas with the highest risk are Colonia Nueva Esperanza and Chilpancingo, located at the banks of the Alamar River, so the State Government is planning to relocate over twelve hundred families that live in highest risk areas. The problem is that the project is very expensive, so the families are expected to pay for the land assigned by the government, and many of them can’t afford it.

The rest of the town is also vulnerable to rain. Due to the accelerated growth of Tijuana, the local administration doesn’t have enough infrastructures to satisfy the city’s demands.

A recent study made by Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF) shows that Tijuana’s population grows twice as fast as San Diego’s population. According to the report, Tijuana’s population will double in just fifteen years.

The problems regularly caused by heavy rain fall are landslides and flooding in the streets, which creates traffic problems, accidents and deterioration of the roads. The main causes of these problems are the lack of a rain sewage system, and littered streets, because rain water drags them into the sewage, clogging it.

The west side of town also has problems, because water flows from the top of the hills all the way to the sea, dragging along all of the street’s litter. When it rains really hard, large amounts of trash end up in Tijuana’s shores, from large objects, like car tires, to small polluters, like motor oil and animal excrement.

Another big problem is that the amount of water flowing through the sewers sometimes exceeds the capacity of the State’s Public Service Commission (CESPT) water pumping systems, and they have to discharge partially treated or untreated water directly into the ocean.

Some parts of town have been known as conflictive for many years now. One of the areas that causes the largest traffic problems is Intern-acional Avenue, which gets flooded even if it rains lightly.

Some ramps and uphill streets are affected by water flow and mudslides, which block traffic or drag large rocks that crash into cars, like Buenavista ramp or Terán Terán Boulevard.

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