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Sunday, April 21 2019 @ 08:09 PM UTC

"Gai Kukken Afen Yam" - Raw Sewage Flowing Directly Into the Bay of Saigon in Bocas del Toro

Foreign Direct Investment

By DON WINNER for - I just confirmed what I had previously suspected regarding the area of Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro described by La Prensa as "environmentally fragile." I'll say. There's no black water sewage pipe to service the houses bordering that area. Right now the residents living along the shore of Saigon Bay take a crap and "plop" - floaters straight into the ocean. I wonder how the tropical fish swimming playfully amongst the "environmentally fragile" coral and reefs feel about that action. Well, it's probably good fertilizer for the plankton or whatever, and it probably makes for some interesting test results for the nearby research Smithsonian research facility, but it sure as hell isn't the "untouched by human hands" idyllic tropical paradise portrayed by La Prensa this morning. (more, I ain't done yet...)

And Who's Leading The Charge To Clean That Up? Why, the members of the English speaking expatriate community, of course, who live in and around the area. They recognize the basic tenants of "tourism 101" - you can't sell a peaceful romp in the surf while having Baby Ruth's floating by. "Hey Dad, what's that? Some kind of fish or something?" There are sewage treatment facilities on Isla Colon but all of the houses are not connected to the "black water" line. Efforts to expand the coverage continue, but to date the area behind the Bocas del Toro airport and specifically the Bay of Saigon area are not covered. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz...

Bocas Dudes Going Nuts: I understand completely there are hotel and restaurant owners in Bocas del Toro who both know the facts and reality, are trying everything they can to improve the situation, and who simultaneously don't want to discuss these problems publicly out of fear of scaring away tourists or what have you. They will now (predictably) go nuts and start to do a rain-dance on my head because I'm publishing this article. Do me a favor, guys - if there's something that's substantially wrong, incorrect, not true, or not factual in my reporting on this issue, then by all means feel free to fire away in the comments section. Even better, feel free to fire away, anyway because you guys live and work up there and I don't, so you all know what's going on a whole lot better than I do. But, if your message is "I wish that Don Winner guy would just shut up and go away..." and you've got nothing else, you might just as well keep it to yourself. Or not. Whatever...

Bocas Needs Development $$$ to Improve Infrastructure: If one gringo takes a dump over the side of his mega-yacht you can bet Raisa Banfield would literally have a bright green cow on the spot. But the fact that the local populace of Bocas del Toro have been crapping directly into the ocean for generations would obviously be lost on her. More likely the practice would be written off as some kind of quaint Indian pastime, full of folklore and good memories (sigh). The solution to bringing Bocas del Toro and Isla Colon out of the crapper, so to speak, is foreign direct investment, lots of it. Like, the money it takes to build a brand new 450+ slip marina project. With all of the attention and scrutiny this project will bring and the environmental standards they are going to be forced to adhere to, and considering the state of affairs currently floating around the lovely Bay of Saigon, you can expect the installation of this marina just might cause a net improvement on the environmental conditions surrounding the island. Just like I thought. Well, that's enough of that shit...

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud (plop).

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"Gai Kukken Afen Yam" - Raw Sewage Flowing Directly Into the Bay of Saigon in Bocas del Toro | 2 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
"Gai Kukken Afen Yam" - Raw Sewage Flowing Directly Into the Bay of Saigon in Bocas del Toro
Authored by: oldmanandthesea on Wednesday, December 31 2008 @ 12:37 AM UTC

Having done so for twelve years before moving to Panama, I can attest that there's nothing quite as peaceful as living on a boat in a marina. I lived one a Tollyhome 36 in Gig Harbor, WA, a small town of about 3,500 which has more marinas and pleasure craft than the entire country of Panama. There are a few shortcomings however, and one of the main ones is getting rid of the waste. In most U.S. marinas there are services which will come to your boat and pump your holding tank every two weeks or so. Or there is a community dock where you can go to have your tanks pumped out.

I have no real problem with pumping gray water (shower and sink) directly into the ocean, but I'd like to break the neck of anyone pumping their toilet directly into the bay. The one question I would ask is "How are they mitigating the pumping of holding tanks?" Until that question is satisfacterly answered, I would oppose the building of any marinas.

Clyde Jenkins

"Gai Kukken Afen Yam" - Raw Sewage Flowing Directly Into the Bay of Saigon in Bocas del Toro
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 31 2008 @ 02:48 AM UTC

Don, you're nuts.

When have you seen ANY serious environmental regulations enforced here in Panama? When is there ANY infrastructure planning required of new maga-developments, anywhere in this country? Unlike in well-functioning civil societies, developers are not asked to ensure that the power grid, potable and sewage water facilities - not even the surface streets - can accommodate the incremental impact of high density development be it tourism on the Causeway, highrises in Punta Pacifica or even the apartment complexes in Albrook and Clayton.

You yourself know that with a weak rule of law, these regulations are the first to go out the window. As another example of the total lack of rule of law: today's paper a youth group takes out a full page ad to criticize the Transitos for not enforcing smoked glass regulations (on license plates no less!).

Professionals that study this for a living know that mega-development projects create large economic externalities while providing relatively little economic bootstrapping in developing regions (eg. the third world). That's why 15 boutique marinas scattered throughout Bocas would probably have greater positive impact while much less negative impact than the proposed mega-marina.

Also, I'm not convinced that most ex-pats in Bocas have enough history in the area to really comment on the proposed changes. Perhaps case studies from Mexico and Costa Rica would provide a richer perspective. I think that you'll find that the consensus is towards micro-development being generally better than mega-development, from a social cost-benefit perspective.

Matt Miller