The New River in Orange Walk has been a hot topic for the past few months. The river is in a dire state, and residents are now dealing with a strong stench and potential health risk. OW South Area representative, Jose Mai, has joined a task force created by Omar Figueroa, Minister of State in the Ministry of the Environment, to explore methods to return the river to some semblance of normalcy. Today Mai spoke to us about some of those methods.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Area Representative, Orange Walk South: “There were a number of options that were presented today. Ofcourse these options were based on consultation, extensive research at home and abroad to look at the different scenarios and to look at the advantages and disadvantages of implementing such measures. I will mention three of them. One of them was a chemical, aluminum oxide I think it is but that was quickly disregarded. We looked at the mechanical alternatives which is actually aerating the river, physical agitation of the river. We looked at that option of aeration using mechanical aerators and then we looked at water pumping, pumping water from one area to the next to help circulation. And then we looked at the possibility of what we refer to as bioagents which are commercially available bacteria and other microorganisms that would help, beneficial organisms that would help in the process. We essentially chose to look preferably at the mechanical agitation and the bioagents.”
While the other two methods did not prove ideal in the short term, Mai explained that there may be a simple mechanical solution to the problem.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Area Representative, Orange Walk South: The mechanical agitation of water or what you call the water agitators which are being used in the shrimp farms there are a bunch of them available in Belize on the shrimp farms. ASR is using some on their ponds and what these do is that they actually aerate and bring oxygen into the water and I think the best people to seek assistance from are the shrimp farmers and producers because they have to aerate their water to get the shrimp oxygen or else the shrimp would die. So there’s a bunch of that and I think the decision was that the Department of Environment personnel will seek to get some of these aerators to get into the river. The decision was made to work on the area just next to the schools because that is the area that is right now very critical; school is on, the kids are not going to school and once we get that in there we’ll see how that works.”
Jose Mai admitted that everyone, including him, are to blame because, year after year this incident occurs but no one cared to do something.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Area Representative, Orange Walk South: “To be honest with you I think nobody took this matter seriously, nobody and I indict myself on that too. Every year we have the same situation where you pass around a certain area and you smell the river but as you pass that little spot it goes and then the weather comes and it disappears and we take things for granted. This year is a very different year, it’s a phenomenon and so we’re seeing that we have to do things differently. So nobody was prepared for this, technically I think we also didn’t know how to respond and I’m being very modest in saying that. From a realistic standpoint, we didn’t know how to deal with it but I think we have competent people in the Department of Environment, we have people out here who care for the wellbeing of the river and so putting collective intelligence together.”