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Insufficient Resources to Mitigate the Devastating Effects of Heavy Rains in Azuay

Published on April 11, 2023

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Azuay has experienced 250 to 300 landslides this year, with 35 of them being critical points. An urgent intervention costing at least $2.5 million is required in Santa Isabel alone.

 Azuay province has been hit hard by the rains in March and April of 2023. The region has experienced 250 to 300 landslides of various magnitudes and 35 critical points, leaving roads blocked, houses and bridges destroyed, crops lost, and almost 80 families out of their homes due to the risk of new landslides.

The most affected cantons are Girón and Santa Isabel.

The provincial government has responded with vouchers for affected families and humanitarian assistance, but the mitigation works, and recovery of lost infrastructure remain the responsibility of local governments. However, there is a lack of resources to deal with the ravages of the rains, especially in Santa Isabel, where an urgent intervention is required, costing at least $2.5 million.

Dire situations in Santa Isabel and Girón

Ernesto Guerrero, the mayor of Santa Isabel, says that in the last three years, the region has experienced some of the worst winters on record that have caused severe damage. Two bridges that connect various communities were destroyed in 2021, and the Chantaco River washed away homes and a stretch of highway in La Unión the following year.

The danger now lies in the La Cría community, where there is a high risk of large landslides. Unfortunately, the Municipality’s resources are not enough to meet all needs, even though it received $2 million from the government to repair the damage caused by the flooding of the Chantaco River.

The situation is similar in the Girón canton, where a large landslide occurred on April 6th, 2023, in the Zapata community, putting 28 families at risk. The rains also caused the destruction of pipes, third-order roads, and other infrastructure, forcing the Municipality to use emergency resources.

Resources are limited

The prefect of Azuay, Cecilia Méndez, has been working hard to make people understand that the mitigation works required are expensive, and the resources of the provincial government are not sufficient to attend to all the emergencies that have arisen and those that may still occur.

The budget of the Azuay Prefecture is approximately $40 million, but Méndez says that there are serious financial problems. In addition, some cantons still have pending works due to the damage from previous winters.

The most urgent situation at present is in the La Cría community, where the Irrigation Secretariat declared an orange alert due to a high probability of landslides that could cause serious damage. The prefect estimates that in La Cría alone, $2.5 million is required for the mitigation works, including rehabilitation of streams and drainage of rainwater, irrigation technology, reforestation, studies for the implementation and construction of biodigesters, and the correct conduction of sewage.

Given these needs, the prefect of Azuay proposes a change in Law 047, which sets rents in favor of Azuay, Cañar, Morona Santiago, and Tungurahua for the sale of energy from hydroelectric plants. She proposes that this money be fully allocated, in the case of Azuay, for the containment of mass movements. The prefect took her proposal to the National Assembly and hopes that the president will consider it to veto Law 047.

Milton Benítez, regional coordinator of the Risk Secretariat, explains that in the face of any threat, the first response must be given by the municipalities. Benítez says that if the municipalities have the studies, the delivery of resources can be managed with the Presidency.

Until there are definitive solutions, the governor of Azuay, Matías Abad, promised to “deploy the entire contingent of the Executive” to attend to emergencies. The Ministries of Economic and Social Inclusion and of Housing are gathering information on the affected families to activate the contingency, rental, and housing bonds.


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