Recent rains have helped but water rationing in Cuenca is still likely; New National Assembly starts work November 20; Anti-begging campaign planned

Nov 10, 2023 | 0 comments

Sporadic rains have delayed water rationing in Cuenca but the director of city utilities says it could be coming soon. “The rains in the last two weeks have helped and we have been able to defer the water cutoffs but we remain, however, in a low water crisis at our reservoirs,” says ETAPA General Manager Veronica Polo. “It is a day-to-day thing, but we need much more rain to avoid rationing. It is important that the public understand the situation and not assume we have returned to normal.”

According to Polo, the Caja Mountains watershed, which provides Cuenca’s drinking water, remains extremely dry. “The downslope of the Cajas is like a giant sponge that collects water during rainy season and holds it in dry season,” she says. “The problem is that we have not received our normal rainfall since August and the sponge is drying up.”

Many of the lakes and ponds in the Cajas Mountains, west of Cuenca, are dry.

Polo adds she worries that the coming El Niño will extend the drought, possibly into February or March of next year. “Historically, El Niño systems create drought conditions in the sierra and this is what we are beginning to see now,” she says. “I must be honest and report that we are facing potentially catastrophic scenarios and are developing contingency plans for this. We urge all Cuenca residents to help us conserve water since this will reduce the need for rationing.”

New National Assembly starts work November 20
Miguel Pesántez, Administrator of the National Assembly, announced Wednesday that the new Assembly will be officially seated on November 20. “The National Electoral Council has confirmed the date and members will be begin organization activities immediately after the opening session,” he said.

Pesántez said that according to the CNT, President-elect Daniel Noboa will be inaugurated in the Assembly chambers on November 30 or December 1, and give his inaugural address.

Several Assembly members are pressuring the CNT to move the inauguration date forward to November 23. Pierina Correa, leader of the Citizens Revolution, insists there needs to be a “working president” within days after the new Assembly is sworn in. “The country faces massive challenges and we need the president to be available to work with us as soon as possible.”

Anti-begging campaign planned
Ecuador’s Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion has launched a public information campaign to prevent begging in the country’s largest cities. According to Minister Esteban Bernal, the program is not intended to punish those who beg but to direct them to services that can provide support. “In particular, we are concerned with the children, their health and nutritional needs, as well as their schooling, since many of them are of school age.”

Bernal said the campaign is designed to help the needy during the Christmas season. “Begging increases by as much as 25% during this time of year and it is more important than ever to provide assistance.”

The campaign will focus on Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, the cities with the largest numbers of street beggars, according to the ministry. A survey conducted earlier this year determined that 80% of beggars are Venezuelan refugees, 13% are Colombians while the rest are Ecuadorians, mostly elderly or with disabilities. The survey found that almost all beggars with children were Venezuelan.

Thirty institutions, 22 run by the government and eight NGOs, are participating in the campaign. According to Bernal, many of the support programs are under-utilized, including several dormitories operated by the Catholic church. “Representatives from these organizations will be on the streets beginning in late November, providing information about the services and help that is available.”

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