Uvita and Bahia have made impressive strides to combat the two largest issues affecting the South Pacific Zone: water resources and infrastructure damages after Tropical Storm Tomas and the unusually heavy rainy season. After a difficult year, the progress from the major players involved is indicative of what is to come for all affected areas, notably Dominical’s surrounding rivers and polluted water supplies.

Recent Issues

The “green” or rainy season between May and October this year was particularly intense, with downpours, aguaceros, that almost completely fulfilled the quota of 120-160 inches allotted for the entire year. The National Meteorological Institute (IMN) reported that most of the rain was due to the collision of low pressure systems from the Caribbean Sea’s Tropical Storm Tomas.

The effects of this intense rainy season and Tropical Storm Tomas have caused major damage to the region’s bridges, river overpasses, and aqueducts; resulting in government issued red alerts. In November, over 25% of all paved roads had suffered substantial damages and were reported as non-passable. Floods and landslides forced 468 people across the country out of their homes, with an estimation of 400 of those people in temporary shelters near Quepos and Parrita, on the Central Pacific coast. The Costanera Sur suffered severe damages and closures by The National Roadway Council (CONAVI) with a collapsed drainage system and flooding near kilometer 165 between Uvita and Palmar Norte, as well as damage in Manuel Antonio all the way down to Ojochal.

Main Players and Recent Progress

Reactive efforts to recover losses and meet repair demands has met criticism in the past for being slow and inefficient, but residents in Uvita say things are improving, and they hope the trend continues in the future.

Most towns and pueblos are now relying on action from the water and sewer systems agency in Costa Rica – the Costa Rican Aqueduct and Sewer System Institute (Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados), or AyA. Providing more than 60% of the population’s hygienic water and sewage treatment, rural communities and local ASADAS (Administrative Associations of Rural Water and Sanitation Systems) are now seeing progress with new installations and plans for renewed water purification filters.

ASADAS provide close to 3000 people with clean water in Uvita and have worked diligently on the coastline since these storms in efforts to protect supplies and the aqueduct that was officially inaugurated in 2006.

Primary environmental Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) within the area such as the Pacific Central & South Association of Friends of Nature (Asociacion de Amigos de la Naturaleza del Pacifico Central y Sur), or ASANA, are focused on recovery. They oversee the internationally known project – Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor (PTBC), which is concentrated within the forest between Terraba and Savegre Rivers. Besides creating a natural corridor of protected lands, they also extend their efforts to protecting water systems.

Katia Roman, the ASANA Program Official, has reported to The Costa Rica News that they have submitted a proposal to the Stroud Water Research Center to use the Leaf Pack Technology for monitoring river and stream health, stimulating watershed preemptive and response education. This will protect an estimated 75% of the PTBC area’s collectible, potable rain watersheds that could supply 52 communities and 20 rivers.

The Southern Zone Development Authority (JUDESUR) has also been helping by looking into projects of financing or purchasing ranches in the Southern Zone that need saving from improper development, such as the Rivera brother’s ranch, whose land has proven to be able to provide water for up to 50 years.

A local Costa Rican restaurant owner on Ballena’s Playa Chaman entrance is one example of someone who feels the negative effects of river issues and suffered a lack in tourism due to the collapsed river overpass of the Costanera Sur. He reports that neighbors are pleased that the project to rebuild the beach’s entrance has been steadfast and expedient over these past two months:

“I think our institutions are attempting to take the initiative quickly, after much criticism from the locals and expat communities. They now need positive and constructive reinforcement.”

The Future

While repair progress ensues, other issues remain a cause for concern. The local Environment Ministry’s (MINAE) department of geology and mining confirmed applications for concessions to mine one kilometer above the coastal highway to one kilometer below on the Morete River, as well as on the Uvita River. The proposed concession runs right through Rancho La Merced National Wildlife Refuge, which is currently managed by a local Tico family.

Despite the many damages and setbacks, the Southern Zone continues to persevere with accelerated repairs and more beneficial projects planned for the future. The residents and locals here are feeling optimistic after witnessing tangible evidence of progress from groups such as ASANA and hopeful filter projects from AyA. Proper maintenance of clean, drinkable water and protection of the surrounding area’s water supplies will remain a top priority for a long time to come, thanks to a proactive community, NGOs, and an increasingly supportive, responsive government.

For up to date information on new proceedings, visit these websites:
The Costa Rican Institute of Aqueduct and Sewers: https://www.aya.go.cr/SitePages/Principal.aspx
ASANA website: www.asanacr.org