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The challenge of freeing a Dominican river from eight colossi that lie in its bed

Santo Domingo, Nov 19 (EFE).- Eight metal colossi lie in the bed of the Ozama river, some for three decades, contaminating it and preventing the navigability of what was once the pluvial artery of the Dominican capital, on whose surface work is already being done in the scrapping of the rusty ship Bel Divina Pastora. The dismantling of the ship, 92 meters long, is only the beginning of the work to rehabilitate the river, sick of receiving garbage and harboring polluting waste, such as the wrecks that once transported sugar and cement. Recovering a river with such high levels of contamination is a complex task that involves the participation of various institutions that make up a special cabinet appointed by the Government. The Ministry of the Environment directs it and the Dominican Navy bears the weight of the work that is currently being carried out. IRON GIANTS The dimensions of the eight sunken ships are similar to those of the Bel Divina Pastora, explained to Efe Jorge Ruiz Montas, advisor to the Ministry of the Environment and in charge of special projects for the recovery of the Ozama basin, made up of the rivers Ozama and Isabela. These are deep-draft vessels, “anyone who does an elementary calculation” realizes the great carrying capacity of a ship with sugar or cement, as well as its draft and, therefore, the depth of the river so that it could be passed. “These ships have to leave the Ozama River for two fundamental reasons. The first because they are an important contaminant. The second because we have to recover navigation. That is a debt that is owed to Dominican society,” Ruiz said. MELTING METAL UNDER WATER The technical work of dismantling the ships is the responsibility of the General Directorate of Dredging, Dams and Beaconing of the Dominican Republic Navy, whose deputy director, Navy Captain Simeón Plutarco Abad de Ureña, provided EFE with details about the jobs they perform. They are currently extracting sediment from the Bel Divina Pastora, but the most complex task is that of the divers, who must scrap the structures that remain at the bottom of the river. Dismantling is done by cutting sections of 10 to 5 tons to finally remove the metal with cranes, a “complex” activity that Navy technicians master perfectly, said the captain. “The longer the ship is immersed, the contamination is greater, but it is easier to extract because the metal is more degraded,” so the biggest problem in this case is the sedimentation of polluting elements, which “have caused ecological impacts “To be determined by environmental experts. Breaking up and extracting parts of each ship can take from one to two months, depending on the tonnage. It is assumed that a diver can normally cut two to three tons per day. “If we put four divers on each boat, they would cut 10 to 20 tons per day,” Abad de Ureña said. The Bel Divina Pastora should be out in no more than two months, according to the calculations of the technicians and, being optimistic, within a year or so, the Ozama would be free of all the scrap from the eight ships that rest on its bed . EDUCATE TO SAVE A SICK RIVER But extracting tons of metal is not the only task to clean up the river, which is enormously polluted by the garbage that is dumped from the city’s ravines and which, no matter how far away it is, always ends up in its waters, which some seem to consider a dump. This constitutes an important challenge that is faced daily with cleaning tasks and it is essential that, in parallel, work be carried out to educate and raise awareness among citizens, mainly in the communities that live on its margins. “The Ozama River is a very sick river. It is a very big problem” and the Dominicans “dream of this clean river”, for this reason “we are educating people so that they do not pollute it, that they do not throw garbage. And that is what we are working on The main project is that, to educate the people,” civil engineer Juan Antonio Vargas Monción, who heads the cabinet for the recovery of the Ozama basin, told EFE. The lower part is the one that presents the main problems, although with the work being carried out “the west bank of the river is almost clean” and the east bank will soon begin, he said. Unfortunately, “we will never be able to say that the patient is totally healthy, but that he is very relieved”, so Dominicans and visitors will be able to enjoy again, in the future, the main pluvial artery of Santo Domingo. María Montecelos (c) EFE Agency

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