Repair work south of the lake barely reaches 40%

Six months ago the retaining wall of the El Guayabo-Encontrado national road gave way after the Zulia River flooded, today 160,000,000 hectares of meat and milk production are still under water so the rains don’t stop.

Maracaibo. Six months ago, the inhabitants and the producers of the South of the lake in the state of Zulia They had the worst time of their lives. The retaining wall at kilometer 43, at the height of the national road El Guayabo-Encontrados, gave way to the flooding of the Zulia River after several hours of rain, enough to keep everything under water.

The incessant rains derived from the La Niña phenomenon, the onset of winter and the lack of financial resources for maintenance of the Zulia River check dam, did not allow producers to recover their land; They are always flooded.

The most urgent is to close the gap at km 43 and channel the river so that in the 160,000 hectares producers of meat, milk, cheese, bananas and papaya, begin recovery work on the farms and that the affected inhabitants return home with the little that the force of the water has left them.

This is why the associations of breeders in the region have embarked on a crusade and have set to work. They held two cattle auctions to raise funds to start gap repair work on the national road, which have so far advanced by 42%

Nelson Urdaneta, president of the Association of Breeders of Guayabo (Argag) declared by telephone to Chronicle.A that the work is entrusted to a private company paid by the producers and gave details of the progress.

We come to the middle of the gap with the sheet piles closing. This week the old channel should be opened so that the pressure on the hole drops a bit and a significant amount of water comes out to keep moving forward in the closure,” he said.

On October 21, Sectoral Vice President for Citizen Security and Peace, Remigio Ceballos, reported by the state broadcaster, after a helicopter tour of the affected area, that “the recovery of the South of the Lake has reached 70%”. He ensured that his staff continued to be deployed with the necessary machinery and equipment to complete the work.

The progress of the repair works of the retaining wall of the Zulia river at kilometer 43 of the Encontrados national road has advanced by 42%. Photo: courtesy

Urdaneta said national government intervention has been minimal. “We are still waiting for the financial contribution from the national government. What they have provided is a pipe to make Czech sea urchins, which are used for closure with sheet piling, fuel and machinery to open up the old channel, but we are still waiting for resources”.

Work on the wall includes fill the gap with sheet piles, repair the retaining wall and build the embankment of the national road, without paving, these works have a cost of 565,000 thousand dollars, of which the agricultural producers have already paid the private enterprise, 200,000 thousand.

We lack oxygen. What we collected at auction has been spent. There are producers who have contributed, but the weekly payment for the company becomes difficult for us”, explained the president of Argag.

The rains don’t stop

Producer concerns ends with the closing of the hole at kilometer 43, there is other critical points which have already caused other floods like those recorded in Valderrama and Guasimales.

“In the case of Valderrama, the national government will take care of it. They have already laid a few tubes and cut others to make a sort of sheet pile to line the wall. They drive them in and then fill them in to reinforce it and prevent the wall from collapsing in that area. But there are other points of attention such as El Gallinazo, La Curva del Diablo and another between El Guayabo and Puente Venezuela“said Urdaneta.

The producers believe that in less than a month the works should be closed, to then begin with the recovery of the 160,000 hectares affected in which or first it is necessary to wait for the soil to dry. Currently the production of meat and milk in the South of the Lake has decreased by 70%, the reactivation of these lands could take another six months.

Pastures, fences and paddocks must be salvaged. This is a process and this is where we are going to need government support to provide fuel, lubricants, fertilizers and seeds, reactivate pasture and fodder production to raise and produce milk and meat, it would start next year,” he explained, cattle.

There is no shortage

Paul Márquez, president of the Federation of Cattle Breeders of the Maracaibo Lake Basin (Fegalago), assured that there was no shortage or increased meat and milk prices in Zulia, due to flooding in the south of the lake.

“The floods have not changed prices and even less caused shortages. The animals that were on the affected farms did not disappear, they did not die, they are animals that moved to other areas. That’s to say are still part of the meat circuit and gradually they will enter the benefit system,” Márquez said.

Cows in Zulia
Fegalago assures that the floods in the south of the lake have not caused shortages or increased prices for meat and milk / Mariela Nava

He clarified that there is no mass slaughter of cattle, nervous sales or drowned animals. “The panorama is not encouraging compared to the rainsthere is still a lot to do and I’m not quite sure if the works can be finished before the end of winter, but so far we have had a balance”

According to Fegalago, south of the lake stopped producing about 160,000 thousand liters of milkbut the increase in production in other areas such as Machiques, Villa del Rosario, La Cañada de Urdaneta and the north, compensated for the paralysis of the flooded hectares.

For Márquez, the recovery will be slow. “We calculate that in six months or a year they will be able to do it. The solution is not miraculous and neither is the recovery, but so far there is no influence in the market,” he said.

People keep fighting

This Friday, El Rull, in the municipality of Catatumbo, once again felt the force of the Zulia River. The water covered up to a meter of the poor homes, schools and clinics.

“Caño Tigre pushed back, like the first time. We crossed these roads, the little that is left of pavement, because of some planks that we put down, knowing that if the road gives way, we will drown,” said a producer who was traveling the area on a motorcycle.

Mr. Alfredo Ortiz lost what little he had left at home, the water reached his chest because the river has risen again. Holy God, the water is reaching us higher and higher, what are they going to wait for? shouts a housewife from El Rull.

It is estimated that more than 500 families are affected by the rains the last few hours south of the lake, the little they have been able to salvage in the last few months, after several assaults on the flow, is about to be swept away by the current which continues to grow. “I’m scared,” said Brenda, a nurse from El Rull.

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