A small team of construction workers put the finishing touches on a new bridge in Cotuí’s San Martin neighborhood. Once complete, the bridge will scarcely be noticeable by residents of this burgeoning neighborhood, but its impact will be significant. That’s because the bridge will run over top of a new concrete enclosure that can hold more than 26,000 gallons of sewage water.
The bridge is part of a water infrastructure project that reflects the challenges that can arise in a city with aging infrastructure and a growing population. In San Martin, the sewage drainage system didn’t keep pace with the rapid growth of the neighborhood. Sewage water used to be funneled down a small hill into an 80-centimeter-wide pipe. As the volume of sewage increased, sediment build-up obstructed the pipe, which was located opposite a large residential area. When it rained, as it often does in this sub-tropical region, flooding occurred, damaging homes and posing a potential environmental hazard.
The municipalities not only choose these projects, they lead the development and implementation
“People had to evacuate their homes and they lost a lot of their belongings,” says Welinton Otañez, Corporate Social Responsibility Supervisor at Pueblo Viejo. “The community demanded a solution.”
The water infrastructure project was the result. It’s one of 21 infrastructure projects implemented to date as part of Cotuí’s municipal development plan (MDP). The MDP, which was ratified in a community-wide referendum in 2009, prioritizes how Cotuí will allocate revenue derived from Barrick’s nearby Pueblo Viejo mine. Its implementation, says Faby Manzano, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Barrick Pueblo Viejo, is a good example of how Barrick is living up to its vision to partner with host governments and communities to transform their natural resources into sustainable benefits and mutual prosperity.
“We have, over time, and through continuous, open and honest engagement, built strong partnerships with all of our host communities,” Manzano says. “The results of these partnerships are evident in the projects being completed like the San Martin water project in Cotuí. Of note, the municipalities not only choose these projects, they lead the development and implementation.”
In addition to the bridge, the San Martin project involved the construction of a new 70-meter canal to transport sewage water. It is easier to clean and maintain than a pipeline, thus preventing sedimentation. From the canal, the water enters the enclosure under the bridge and is then filtered into a nearby stream, effectively eliminating the flooding issues.
Grisilda Nuñez, an independent architect who lives in Cotuí, oversaw the project for the municipality. “We went through a checklist with the contractor, ensured proper materials were used, and supervised the implementation and execution of the project,” Nuñez says, noting that a similar project is underway as part of the MDP in Cotuí’s La Libertad neighborhood.
In San Martin, the project is already having a positive impact beyond the expected results. Before the new infrastructure was built, the neighborhood had a high turnover rate due to the constant flooding and there was little sense of community. This is changing. The majority of the people living in the most impacted block are now owners instead of tenants. Property values are increasing and, most importantly, residents are deepening their ties to the community.
“This project is improving the lives of the people and families who live in this neighborhood, and that is very gratifying to see,” Otañez says.