Most of the Coastal towns, here in Southern Ecuador, have been without water for several days--some for several weeks. Local water companies have struggled to provide water for part of each day, as they cope with drought conditions and lowering of the water table.
We are OK, as we have a 6000 gallon holding tank, which adds water when the company is putting water in the pipes. We can also purchase 5000 gallons of water for $80, if necessary.
People on the Coast have been frustrated by the slow reaction to this problem, by the Federal Government in Quito.
To bring attention to our fogotton Coast, a decision was made to block the Ruta Del Sol, (the Pacific Coast Highway of Ecuador). The Protest began yesterday at 6:30 am, by blocking the North-South road at a choke point right down the road from our house.
This protest was not only about the water shortage. Our hospital here in Manglaralto is the only one for about 50 km in either direction. This hospital serves the incredible amount of tourists generated by Montanita, the surf town right north of us. The hospital badly needs to be remodeled or rebuilt, it needs more supplies, and it needs an immediate increase of staff, especially more doctors. They have been told, however, that their budget will be reduced by Quito.
We walked over to the protest at 7:30 to see a large group of protesters had already stopped all traffic on the North-South road.
An interesting side note: The crowd was good natured, and the police were non-threatening...The crowd sang the National Anthem, and even the police joined in the singing. In addition, the crowd chanted "We need Water" and "The Family can't afford to buy water", etc. The varous speakers had several good natured jokes. The police pretty much let the course of events unfold--no rubber bullets, dogs, or shoving, etc.
Here's a photo of Fernando, who helps us with maintenance, standing on the truck taking more photos...
The main drummer and spokesman for the crowd, was as good natured as the crowd.
The police looked intimadating at times, but mostly spent their time chatting.
We had a mini sit in after about three hours. The police had tried to move the crowd, but a bunch of folks just sat down. It was obvious that the police were intent on having this protest remain peaceful, so they discontinued their efforts.
Several folks handed out bananas, pieces of watermelon and slices of oranges to the crowd.
After everyone had eaten, the men went around and policed up the rinds...
After the road had been closed for 6.5 hours, the police and government officials were able to negotiate a settlement, and the road was opened to traffic at 1:30 in the afternoon.
There was no violence, ever! In fact, as the police were packing up, Roxanne saw the Captain patting one of the Sergeants on the back and smiling broadly. He had done his job right!
Now, we hope that the newspaper and TV coverage, and the messages sent back to Quito will result in some improvement in our water delivery systems, and especially in our only hospital in many miles...