The few inches of rain which fell on Belize City on Monday night caused many of our Belie City Streets, even those which have been newly paved, to be flooded.
Many are blaming the Belize City Council for not having provided an adequate drainage system to take care of the excess surface water. But even if all the drains in the city were unclogged and functioning normally, Belize City would still have a flooding problem.
Why is this?
During certain months of the year, and especially in November, sea levels are unusually high. The weather phenomenon known as global warming has made the situation worse.
When heavy rain combine with high sea levels, the two conspire to overpower Belize City’s plumbing system.
The sea backs up the river, and the river backs up the drainage canals. The canals in turn become so full, they don’t allow the drains to do their work.
Normally the drains carry the excess surface water from the streets to the canals. But if the canals are already full, there is nowhere for the water from the drains to go. So the drains send the water back into the streets. As soon as the sea levels go down, the drains begin to function again because the canals are no longer full to capacity
Many years ago the late Ronald Greenwood, a civil engineer and town planner and the author of Belize City Region Plan, pointed out that this would happen. It has been happening for years in many parts of the world, but today with global warming on the rise, we see it more often, and in places where it never happened before.
Some scientists argue that global warming is a cyclical event which will normalize itself with time and there is no real cause for concern.
Others are convinced that this is more than a cyclical event. If industrial countries do not control their carbon gas emissions, they predict that the seas will become so warm, they will cause the ice reserves in the Artic and the Antartic to melt, adding to the volume of water in the seas and pushing them to new, higher levels.
It would be madness, these scientists argue, to wait for nature to correct itself because this could take ages. Moreover there is no sure way of knowing that nature would indeed correct itself. It is up to the industrial countries which helped to create the problem to bring about a reduction in the amount of carbon gas they produce so that sea levels can be stabilized.
Last week President Barack Obama was in China for talks, and one of the agreements he signed with the Chinese was a pact to reduce carbon gases. China and the United States are the two countries that spill the most carbon gas into the atmosphere.
If the industrialized countries of the world can find a way to reduce their carbon gas emissions, they may be able to bring global warming under control.
If they succeed in doing this, Belizeans may not have to worry too much about flooded streets.