Humanitarian Outlook Engineering Report - Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, February 2007

What follows is an engineering and water report on the needs for several communities along the shore of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. Recommendations are provided along with supporting data based on the findings of the engineering team. The water engineering summary is preceded by overviews of the project, the team and the team plan.

The Project
In 2006 a project was started by a small group of Rotary Club International members, headed by Mark Campbell, for a humanitarian needs response in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala. The project of this team of some twenty people is to evaluate the concerns of this region. We want to see what needs to be done and what can be done to help resolve safety and quality of life concerns for the people there.

It is perhaps well known that the Central American country of Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in the world and has had its share of war, civil war, natural disasters including earthquakes and hurricanes along with poverty and the suppression of its main market for coffee sales. This has caused infrastructural and economic damage which has left many fringe communities in the country highly neglected.

In this case the region was highly dependent on coffee bean farming for export and the drop in world market coffee prices caused many farms ( “fincas”) to go out of business. Then in 2005 hurricane Stan caused major damage with flooding and mudslides resulting in great loss of life and lasting damage to infrastructure that years later lingers still.

This causes great difficulty for the people there. Jobs were lost, homes were lost, public buildings and roads were damaged. The migration of people to find better living conditions cause further stress to several already struggling areas. In two cases, the communities of San Andres and Panabaj, the break down is so severe that villages of hundreds of people have been moved to “temporary” pre-fab communities with only bare necessities provided for them. They are in actuality refugee villages.

Eight villages and additional smaller sites were evaluated by the group to see if several specific basic needs were being met. The group looked into water supply, cooking method, living conditions, waste disposal, education and hygiene, along with whatever significant problems prevailed. The main problems are poor living conditions, lack of water, inhalation of smoke, failing hygienic methods, several cases of inadequate waste disposal and in most cases a failing educational system. In other words, all the concerns that we went in with were realized.

The group had a wide range of experience, including medical, agricultural, engineering, financial, family needs and of course basic human support.

Humanitarian Outlook Engineering Report - Lake Atitlán, Guatemala PDF

Respectfully Submitted:
Dan Matthews Meridian Design
Kurt Kuhlmann Meridian Design
Florence Cassassuce Niparajá

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