04
Aug
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8.4.13 … fogcatchers … “But the chasm between rich and poor has never been so clear as during our visit to Flor de Amancay. I thought of the manicured lawns of Miraflores that teem with bright flowers and palm trees, with their legions of landscapers and conspicuous irrigation. Confronting water scarcity in Lima will mean addressing this gap.” …

fogcatchers, technology, Lima Peru, Peruvians Without Water, Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics:  I visited Lima many years ago and the slums were overwhelming.   It’s amazing that fogcatcher technology could be transformative.

Lima’s is a climate where hot coastal air mixes with cool winds off the Pacific to create dense fog. Though this may sound like San Francisco, the city is almost as dry as Cairo. Lima’s annual rainfall barely reaches 11 millimeters and usually falls as a chilly light mist Peruvians call garúa. But in a few hilltop neighborhoods, smart engineering is pulling water out of thick foggy air. Rodas and his neighbors trap close to 600 gallons of water every night between April and December. This means forty-two people in Flor de Amancay can draw water from cisterns filled by the fogcatchers. Though it’s not potable, they use it for washing clothes, to bathe, and to grow zucchini, potatoes, and squash.

To get up close to Flor de Amancay’s fogcatchers, we have to ask for permission. “Since we’ve handed the whole fogcatcher project over to them, we can’t just barge in here anytime we like,” explains Angela Nestarez, a social worker at a community center-cum-clinic-cum-school at the foot of the hill. She found the financing, delivered the materials, and helped train the locals how to build the structures. We knock on the plywood door of one of the community matriarchs. After a moment, a boy in a Barcelona jersey and dirty shorts pulls open the knobless door. “My mother says you can go ahead,” he says and disappears back into the darkness.

The fogcatchers are difficult to make out at first, but I soon spot them on the ridge, standing like towering soccer goals in the mid-morning haze. Their construction is simple: thick green plastic netting six meters wide by four meters tall is stretched between wooden posts that are anchored into the hillside with cement. A plastic gutter runs along the bottom of the net to collect dripping water and send it into a 7,500-gallon concrete holding tank. It can either be stored there—helpful during the fogless summer—or diverted into above-ground cisterns closer to Flor de Amancay’s houses for more immediate use. The entire system, which was helped put in place by Nestarez and her outreach center, is now run by the ten families to whom she handed off the project. They built the fogcatchers and storage and delivery system—with tutelage from visiting engineers—and have free reign over when to use the water they catch and who in their community they can give it to.

Abel Cruz, founder of the non-profit Peruvians Without Water, has led marches in Lima demanding equal access to water. “But we were protesting for so long about the need for the city to give these people water that we never stopped to think about how we could make our own,” Cruz tells me. So when the German organization Alimón e.V. came to Peru in 2006 with plans for a pilot project to harvest fogwater, he got onboard. Working with Alimón and other NGOs, Cruz helped with pilot studies, calculated optimal orientation and installation specifics, and then trained locals how to build the fogcatchers. He’s installed dozens above Lima’s shantytowns. Cruz recently secured $20,000 in funding from USAID to build twenty fogcatchers, and with more funding he hopes to grow that number to 200. On the taxi ride up to Flor de Amancay, Cruz was giddy as he pointed out tanker trucks and dozens of houses that had been built within the last month, some upon the steepest grading I had ever seen.

Despite the difficulties he faces in his small neighborhood of Flor de Amancay, Frank Rodas is genuinely hopeful. He’s an optimistic teenager, proud of the place that’s been home for the last four years since moving from Cajamarca, a provincial city 800 kilometers away. The training he’s received from NGO engineers on building the fogcatchers has made Rodas ambitious—he has big plans for Flor de Amancay. “I want this to be green year-round,” he says, gesturing up towards the ridgeline. “If we get enough fogcatchers up here, these hills would look great. They could even be a tourist attraction.”

Mine is an abiding relationship with Lima. My mother was born here and I’ve been to the city many times. But the chasm between rich and poor has never been so clear as during our visit to Flor de Amancay. I thought of the manicured lawns of Miraflores that teem with bright flowers and palm trees, with their legions of landscapers and conspicuous irrigation. Confronting water scarcity in Lima will mean addressing this gap. And soon.

via Aleszu Bajak: Catching Fog in Lima – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics.


0 Responses to “8.4.13 … fogcatchers … “But the chasm between rich and poor has never been so clear as during our visit to Flor de Amancay. I thought of the manicured lawns of Miraflores that teem with bright flowers and palm trees, with their legions of landscapers and conspicuous irrigation. Confronting water scarcity in Lima will mean addressing this gap.” …”



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