The incoming GSE Team arrive in London on 25th September for a 4 week visit ending at District Conference. The Team has a single focus “The Environment” and will be making a number of presentations around the District. The presentations are entertaining and informative and always enjoyable. A schedule of the presentations is listed below along with contact details to book in:-
The Vocational Training Team (that’s the new name for Group Study Exchange) from this district who recently returned from an intensive four week visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, will be giving four presentations to clubs over the next few weeks, to explain where they went, what they did, and what they got out of it.
The theme for the trip was ‘Water and Sanitation’ and the team are all engineers with a watery connection. The team leader is Cowsi Magol of the RC of Leytonstone & Woodford, and the team members are Michael Wheeler, a hydraulics engineer with British Waterways, Jason Murphy, a civil engineer with a background in flood risk assessment, among others, and Ed Phillips, who has a masters degree in water management.
The dates, venues and host clubs are as follows. Rotarians and partners are invited! For full details, see the attached fliers.
For clubs in the East and North East areas: Thursday 25 August 2011, at the Chigwell Convent, Chigwell. RC of Leytonstone & Woodford. Dinner+welcome drink £17. To book, contact Andy Godsave – [email protected]
For clubs in the North West and West areas: Tuesday 13 September 2011, at the Brentham Club, Ealing. RC of Hanwell & Northfields. Buffet dinner £13. To book, contact Monique Rima
For clubs in the North and Central areas: Wednesday 21 September 2011, at Highgate Golf Club, Highgate. RC of Islington Highgate & Muswell Hill. Dinner £17. To book, contact Peter Oliver
For clubs in the South East and South West areas: to be announced shortly.
Concluding the series of reports from our VTT in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Cowsi Magol, team leader (Rotary Club of Leytonstone and Woodford), and the team of hydraulic engineers: Mike Wheeler, Ed Phillips and Jason Murphy.
Friday 29th April, 2011
A quiet day, with only a lunch invitation from the District President for the Rotary Foundation Committee, Luis Correa. With Buenos Aires city centre partly blocked for Labour Day celebrations it was a little difficult to get across town for the whole team and Ed missed the lunch due to the closure of some parts of the city.
The team were invited to the opening of the District Conference in the evening, where the guest of honour was the Rotary District Governor for the city of Montevideo (Uruguay). Following the introductory speeches, which included one from the cabinet secretary for the City Government of Buenos Aires, the main speaker discussed how Rotary could play its part in providing education to the pre-school and primary school children in the city.
The evening closed with cocktails where the team were able to meet up with Rotarians from various clubs we had been invited to, as well as those Rotarians who had been accompanying us on our vocational programme visits.
By now we are well acquainted with Buenos Aires and could make our own way by taxi or walking back to the homes of our respective hosts where we did not have transport.
Saturday 30th April, 2011
This was the big day when we were due to make our presentation at the conference. The team leader went to the morning sessions to listen to the various speeches, but the team was excused duties until the afternoon session when we were due on stage.
The various presentations were interspersed with a little music and entertainment. The music coming from the District choir and the entertainment from some light hearted sketches from Rotary ladies.
Our presentation was delayed for some time as the schedule was running late, added to which it was decided to have a coffee break before we were the first on for the last session of the conference. Our presentation went down well as the audience was very sympathetic with our efforts in Spanish. A present, from the District Governor of London, to the District Governor of Buenos Aires was also made, together with a London District Governor pennant and pin. The presentation of the team leader’s club pennant (Leytonstone and Woodford), with the Winston Churchill profile, has also been a popular source of conversion.
Sunday 1st May, 2011
A farewell lunch, at the house of one of our previous hosts early in the month, was organised by Dirk Epp (the Chairman of the GSE in Buenos Aires) and his team, together with some of the hosts we stayed with. The weather has suddenly turned cold and it had been arranged the 25 or so guests would be dining outside. We did, but with our coats on. A typical family Sunday lunch of pasta (gnocchi) and astofado was very well received by everyone.
It was a great farewell gathering for our time in Buenos Aires which gave us a chance to thank the team that helped us with our vocational programme and the hosts who put us up at their houses. Further farewell speeches were said and pennants and gifts exchanged. Tonight will be the time to get ready to go home for all except Ed who will be staying on for some three weeks.
Continuing the series of reports from our VTT in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Cowsi Magol, team leader (Rotary Club of Leytonstone and Woodford), and the team of hydraulic engineers: Mike Wheeler, Ed Phillips and Jason Murphy.
The morning was spent on a tour of the sites around Mar del Plata, along the coast and into the interior, before heading back into town for lunch with the local Rotarians. We then left the city giving our thanks to the local clubs for hosting us during Easter week. A six hour return journey back to Buenos Aires followed, returning to our hosts for a one (short) night stay before heading off on our own to Uruguay the following morning.
Sunday 24th April, 2011
We had been told that Uruguay was a one hour boat trip away from Buenos Aires across the River Plate delta and decided that it was worth the visit. This was an unplanned part of our itinerary and we arranged to do this alone, especially as it was Easter week end. We are grateful that our chief organiser, Reinaldo Szama, arranged the bookings for us.
An early start was required as we had to check in by 8:30 AM for a 9:30 AM departure to the old colonial town of La Colonia de Sacramento. The journey was smooth, we arrived on time and found our hotel was a 5 minutes’ walk from the ferry terminal.
Colonia is a city for tourists (with prices to match) with its old buildings and colonial past. Restaurant prices are comparable to central London much to our surprise. The Portuguese first came here in the 16th century, but did not stay (probably because of the high prices and exorbitant exchange rates) and it was settled by the Spanish. We spent the day around the old part of town visiting some of the sites and along the river front, splitting up for part of the time so we had time on our own. A rest up in the late afternoon was followed by a long dinner together.
Monday 25th April, 2011
They say there is no rest for the wicked, but not sure what we have done on this earth to deserve this punishing schedule for a month.
After arriving back to Buenos Aires we were met at the ferry terminal by our organiser for the week, Cristina Moralejo. After lunch we had the first of our working sessions with Halcrow, a British engineering company specialising in the design of civil construction works. They are doing a number of major projects connected to water in the city and the province of Buenos Aires. The next forty eight hours were to be spent with them.
The first meeting was to their central office in Buenos Aires to meet one of their engineers who is organising this part of our vocational training and also the vice-president for civil engineering dealing with water and power projects.
This first meeting involved the VT team giving their work experience to some of their young employees followed by a question and answer session. It went well, especially as some of their staff spoke English and there was a good rapport between the groups. This was a prelude to the presentation at the University of Buenos Aires later in the week when the team would present a full blown presentation to the students from the engineering faculty.
Following this, we were then taken to our new hosts in the early evening for the remainder of our stay until departure date.
Tuesday 26th April, 2011
We were taken to a major construction site in the Tigre/Escobar region to see the construction of a new water treatment plant. With the expansion of the population there is a need for an additional water treatment plant to supply drinking water. The plant is two years into construction and is likely to take another year or so for completion, as there are delays in payment to suppliers and some funding problems.
We were shown the design of the plant which will take water from the River Paraná for treatment and the various stages of the project. The water filtration and treatment plant is some 14km from the river on a huge site. 7km away is the water collection area and there would be tunnels from the river to feed the water into the intake area. This would then be linked to another tunnel (7km) to the treatment plant.
In the first session after a discussion of the project plans we were taken into the partly constructed treatment and storage areas and walked around the site and into the project construction covering the water from the collection area, the treatment area and the storage area. We thought that one of the current water treatment plants in the city was large, but this is on a different scale.
Lunch was provided in the site canteen and we then moved on to the site where the construction of the water storage was taking place. Three very large and deep holes in the ground (inter-connected) would be where the water from the river would be stored before moving on to the water treatment plant 7km away. We could not inspect the site from the construction area below ground as there has been considerable water seepage from natural aquifers. This requires water to be pumped out of the construction area before continuing with the work.
The weather here for late autumn is still very hot and with a full day outside we were glad to have some drinks before heading back to Buenos Aires for the early evening. Fortunately a dinner with one of the Rotary clubs was cancelled.
Wednesday 27th April
It was back to the Halcrow offices again to see one of their other projects. An effluent treatment plant under construction outside the city in an area called Berazategui. Our escort for this trip was the Vice-President of the company for water and power projects.
The area visited, where the effluent treatment plant is being constructed, currently has the sewage from both the city and the province dumped straight out to sea without treatment. The plan is to connect the existing sewage pipe works to the new effluent treatment plant. The plant is in three stages and with the current finance constraints only the first stage is on the drawing board at the moment. This stage will only break up the slurry and bio-degrade the effluent without chemical treatment. This will then be dumped through pipes some 10km out to sea. The second stage of treatment will depend on funds available. This project has also been delayed by lack of funds and will require a further two years for completion.
By mid-afternoon we were back in Buenos Aires, considerably quicker than the outward journey as that was delayed for some time (one and a half hours) by traffic problems. A quick bite to eat and we were then met by our co-ordinators to go to the University of Buenos Aires, Engineering Faculty. We presented the work experience for each of the three members of the team to around 30 students and staff in the University auditorium. The presentation in Power-Point was mainly in Spanish and the team spoke in Spanish when they could with some translation needed. However, it was clear that most of the students spoke English (better than some of their lecturers).
The team was a little nervous of this occasion prior to the presentation, but the audience was sympathetic and interested in what was being said. Each team member offers an interesting slant on the topic of water, which meant that the presentation was not repeating itself as they all had something different to offer from their work experiences.
The evening (late) was spent at dinner with some of our hosts and by co-incidence we all ended up in the same restaurant. This was in an area called Puerto Madero, a little like the London Docklands, full of shops and restaurants and is now one of the most prestigious (and expensive) places to live in Buenos Aires.
Thursday 28th April, 2011
Water, when it is not gravity fed, moves by pumps and we were taken to the Argentine offices and factory for the Danish company Grundfos. This was arranged by a Rotarian (one of our team is staying with him this week) who is an agent and distributor for the company.
We were given a full blown presentation by the head of the company in Argentina and his chief of sales and distribution. The first presentation covered the history of the company, its philosophy, the markets it operates in and its products. The second part of the presentation, by the sales chief, explained how the customers’ needs are met, what products are suited for each environment and the development of new products to meet lower energy use. Wind and solar panel energy for driving the pumps are one of the new developments.
NOTE: Jason Murphy tested out the system by asking what type of pumps would be required in his home town in Australia.
After the presentations we were taken into the factory and warehouse to see the assembly of a pump. The parts for the pumps come from the manufacturing sites Grundfos has in different parts of the world (and from outside suppliers). Pumps are assembled to customers’ order requirements and tested. The tests are linked on line to the main office in Denmark so that they can see the results of the pump post assembly and are only released to customers after the stringent testing system has been met. There was a separate area cordoned off for assembly of pumps for the food and drink industry as these have to meet stringent health requirements. The inside of these pumps are also different from industrial use pumps as the surface is to be used for food and drink. Grundfos are a major supplier to the soft drinks industry. After providing us with lunch we headed back to Buenos Aires.
The evening was spent visiting two Rotary clubs with the first at RC of Rio de la Plata starting with a cocktail reception followed by the club meeting where we gave a short presentation. This club will be the organisers of the convention at the week-end so much of the meeting was spent in discussing the details for the meeting, which is to start with a reception on the Friday evening. After finishing at around 8:45 pm we were then taken across town to the second Rotary Club dinner at the RC of Parque Pereyra. After dinner, another presentation was made by the team following a talk on the Rotary Foundation by two of the committee members for the District.
We have just received an email from Dirk Epp, chairman of the GSE committee of District 4890, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The email, copied to myself and several others, was addressed to Ricardo Calzaretto, a Rotarian and university lecturer who, in response to the request from our team members, arranged for them to give a lecture on 27 April 2011 at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Buenos Aires, entitled “Working in the Water Industry”
“Dear Ricardo, To me it is fantastic, that a group of GSEs are able to take part as lecturers in such a prestigious environment as the University of Buenos Aires. I believe, that for the three visitors, it will also be an interesting experience.
There is another thing which I think is important to mention.
I believe, that with this type of activity, we are exactly fulfilling the principal aims of these exchanges of professionals – exchanging experiences and bringing peoples and continents together.
Many thanks for your help.
GSE has been criticised in the past, unfairly in my view, as a bit of a jolly for one Rotarian and his team.
But now, by concentrating on and selecting a team of specialists in one Area of Focus, capable of delivering a lecture in their subject to a university audience on the other side of the world – and in a foreign language too – this district has broken new ground, raising the awareness of Rotary and fulfilling the more ambitious aims of the Future Vision Plan of The Rotary Foundation.
Continuing the series of reports from our VTT in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Cowsi Magol, team leader (Rotary Club of Leytonstone and Woodford), and the team of hydraulic engineers: Mike Wheeler, Ed Phillips and Jason Murphy.
Monday 18th April, 2010
The week started with a visit to the University of Buenos Aires to the faculty of Agro-Economics. The Vice Dean of the faculty met us to show us around and introduce us to the department professors. We had a long question and answer session about the work undertaken by the faculty in the agricultural area and also about the water situation in the rural agricultural districts. This covered topics such as how to get water to the more arid parts of the country, how they share aquifers with neighbouring countries and the problem of water contamination. One of the key problems of water contamination is that water flowing from the Andes from the Chilean/Argentinian border is contaminated with naturally occurring levels of arsenic in the aquifers. This has to be cleaned before human and crop/animal consumption.
There was also a visit to the faculty laboratories where research work was being done on pest control especially for soya, which is now grown widely in Argentina for both animal feed and human consumption. A large quantity is also exported. The University gets around 40% of its income from research work done for private institutions.
Lunch was provided by the University and the Vice Dean was promised a Tottenham Hotspur pin as he is a great fan of the club following the club’s history since two Argentinians (Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa) played for the club thirty years ago.
The afternoon was free to catch up on e-mails and other work with an evening dinner at the Rotary Club of Villa Devoto. The District Governor and the Deputy Governor were also there. We went through our usual presentation without the power point slides and it went down well as the team is getting more confident with their Spanish.
Tuesday 19th April, 2011
This week is Samana Santa (Holy Week) with Pascua (Easter) starting on Friday. It was arranged that we would be looked after by the District of Mar del Plata for the remainder of the week. This is a town some 400km from Buenos Aires going south down the coast and is the seaside resort for the residents of the city of Buenos Aires.
Before travelling down to Mar del Plata we were given a tour of the waste disposal system run jointly by the City Government of Buenos Aires and the Province of Buenos Aires. We were first taken to one of the collection points where the trucks collecting the city rubbish come in with their loads. We were shown the process from the trucks unloading, to the rinsing of the garbage, followed by the compacting of the rubbish for transportation to the land fill site. There is currently no formal system for separating recyclable items from the non-recyclable items, although there is an informal system where the city government provides finance and employs ex-criminals/unemployed to collect and separate garbage for disposal and recycling. We saw one of these sites when we visited the project at Ria Chuelo to clean up the area.
We were then taken to one of the city land fill areas where the rubbish is taken and the process for sifting the waste and recycling the water. The site also includes the recycling of green waste where it is composted. Fortunately the tour around the land fill was in a vehicle and we only had to stop a few times to look at the process. We were also taken a former land fill site alongside the current one which has now been landscaped into parkland for visitors.
Following this was the seven hour trip to Mar del Plata where we are being accompanied by the son of one the Rotarians who is organising this week for us. Geraldo is now part of our team for the next five days.
A reception committee from the District of Mar del Plata met us at the central offices for the district. After being taken to our accommodation and unpacking we were then taken out to dinner. We are staying together in one house which is normally a holiday let, but being out of season it is available via one of the Rotarians. This has been a long day.
Wednesday 20th April, 2010
Another water company, another water system. We were taken for a visit to the head office of the local water company run by the municipality to provide the drinking water to the town. Mar del Plata is bigger than we thought with around 700,000 residents. This swells to over a million during the peak summer season of December, January and February (we are in the Southern Hemisphere).
An interesting session with the senior management of the company giving us a briefing on how the town water system works. Water is provided thorough aquifers (around 300) around and in the city which is then pumped to six service stations for treatment before being distributed through the drinking water system. We were also presented to the President of the company who took time out to see us. A good question and answer session which lasted for two hours where the team were shown plans and drawings of the water system, e.g. no plans for a de-salinization plant as they have plenty of aquifers. A copy of the plans of the system was presented to the team.
We were then taken to one of the city pumping and water treatment systems and shown the operating software systems and controls as well as the main pumping area.
This was followed by a visit to the original water supply building of the town which is now a museum. The visit was completed by a trip to the top of what was the water tower, but is now a viewing site for a good view of all parts of the town, including the sea front.
This was followed by lunch at the local sports club which has had some famous sportsmen (international rowers and tennis players) as members. We were accompanied by some of the District Rotarians who had been team leaders in the past. Following lunch the team had a rest while the team leader was taken to watch the live match on TV between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at the private offices of one of the Rotarians. This was very much appreciated.
The day was completed by dinner at the RC of the Port Mar del Plata which was attended by the District Governor and a number of Rotarians from other clubs. This evening the presentation was the full Power-Point, which was very useful as we had a chance to go over and practice the presentation before the conference next week.
Thursday 21st April, 2011
An interesting morning. We were taken to a farm belonging to a friend of a local Rotarian. A 45 hectare site mainly with soya bean and a few animals from what we could see. The farmer explained that he wanted to branch out into bottled drinking water as he had three aquifers which could supply 15 million litres a month. He presented us with a plan, mainly consisting of the technical aspects of the water quality and asked our opinion on how we would set up a bottling plant and what was required. As the team leader had been in the soft drinks business an interesting two hour discussion followed on the various options. We were also taken to the two outbuildings which could house a bottling plant, warehouse and which also has the current pumping station extracting water from the aquifer. The team decided that this was not an investment for them even though we were provided with an excellent lunch with the family, friends and Rotarians.
The afternoon was spent in the nearby District of Miramar (a wonderful seaside town and quite upmarket as the President of Argentina has a State summer home there) where we were entertained by the Club President and Secretary.
But we were not without our vocational training! Part of the afternoon was a visit to the newly completed effluent plant in this small city of 70,000 people. The plant was opened by the President of Argentina in February and is only one of three in the Province of Buenos Aires along the coast. The city had been pumping effluent into the sea, but had got the finance to build the effluent treatment plant. The plant was still awaiting certification and is not yet commissioned, but the plant manager took time off from the Easter holiday period to take us around.
This was followed by dinner at the club meeting where we again gave the full Power-Point presentation. The evening was enjoyed by the whole team as the club was very friendly, appreciated our effort to speak in Spanish and liked our presentation very much. A very relaxed evening which was completed by some music and singing.
Friday 22nd April 2011
Being Good Friday we asked to be left to our own devices as the local Rotarians would want to be with their families. In addition the team had to work on their presentations to the Engineering Faculty of the University of Buenos Aires on the 27th April. The presentation to the engineering students of the faculty will be about their work experiences.
Nevertheless, the team leader was invited to lunch with the family of a local Rotarian and had a great Italian style family home cooked lunch.
[Editor’s note: Cowsi Magol has been a Spurs fan for 40 years!]
Monday started early with a vocational training visit to the City of Buenos Aires water works. We were given a presentation by the General Manager of the Water Treatment plant, explaining the history and background to the plant. This also included a short presentation on water as a scarce resource and how it was taken too much for granted not only in Argentina but around the world. The San Martin water treatment plant is one of two in the city and was built in 1927 to take over from the plant that we saw on the previous Friday which is now a museum. The second plant was built in 1970 to meet the increasing needs of the city.
The presentation showed the whole process from taking the water from the two towers in the River Plate to the five stages of cleaning the water for drinking purposes. We were then taken for a walk around the plant and shown each stage of the cleaning process. An exhibition of some of the old equipment was interesting as the old machine for one of the processes (built in the UK) was still functioning.
The company is owned by the city government, but staff of the company (AYSA) hold 10%.
The afternoon and early evening was spent visiting the nearby town of Tigre and another tour of the central part of Buenos Aires.
Tuesday 12th April
The day was spent in the Province of Buenos Aires in the capital city of La Plata.
We had some time to see the city before meeting the Managing Director of the company ABSA. The company is responsible for the drinking water treatment for the city. The MD was an interesting character as he had been imprisoned as an agitator by the military government in his youth. We had a good question and answers session from all of the team.
The history of the company was explained as well as the current projects in hand to extend capacity, including the diversion of a river to provide supply. The company was sold by the then Government to Enron, but following the collapse of Enron, the Government took the company over again. It has 10% of the shares held by employees.
The company provided cars and drivers to take us to Buenos Aires.
Wednesday 13th February
It is not often that you get an opportunity to visit a nuclear power plant or go inside a nuclear reactor. The two plants at Atucha provide electricity generated through nuclear energy. Atucha 1 was started in 1980 but stopped and was not restarted until 1984. ATUCHA 2 is under construction, hence our opportunity to see inside a nuclear reactor. A third plant also operates in the province of Cordoba in the north of the country. A fourth is also planned.
The whole process was explained with quite a wide discussion, including the problems in the nuclear power plant in Japan following the earthquake and the tsunami. This was followed by a tour of the plant under construction.
The security system is stringent and the plant is under the control and rules of the International Atomic Energy Commission.
The day was organised for us by the Rotary Club of Chacabuco and it was the President of the club and one of the club members who were our escorts for the day. The evening was spent at dinner with the club where we did our presentation. We were made very welcome in what is a very friendly club with a good atmosphere.
Thursday 14th April
This was a day without vocational training but interesting, nevertheless, as we spent the morning visiting the Palace of the National Congress. This is the Parliament building which houses the two legislative chambers of congress ( the senate and the chamber of deputies).We were given a private tour of the building first visiting the chamber where the lower house meets. This was followed by a tour of the major rooms and included a history of the independence of Argentina from Spain and the development of Argentina post-independence and the key dates in its history. The tour of the National Congress finished in the library and the archives. We were shown various books, some dating back over a hundred years, showing life in Buenos Aires. The most interesting were the old Peronist magazine from the Peron years in the 1950’s which were full of propaganda about the party and the cult of Peron (more style than substance).
After lunch the tour was completed by visiting the Theatro Colon (Columbus to us). This was an old theatre on the scale of Covent Garden or the Royal Albert Hall which has just been renovated. We were taken on a tour of the Theatre including the side rooms and the main auditorium.
The evening was spent at the Rotary Club of Belgrano where we were treated to a barbeque. Once a month the club has an informal meeting (rather than its formal dinner meeting) and this was arranged for us. We did our usual presentation which went down quite well as the team is now getting more confident with their Spanish.
Friday 15th April
Another trip out of town to visit a petrol refinery in the provincial Capital of Buenos Aires region, La Plata. The company YPF has a visitors centre just opened three months ago. This gave a pictorial history of the development of oil, its uses and as a scares resource. The presentation was entertaining and educational and is mainly aimed at school parties. The talk also included what the company was doing as alternatives to oil.
Following the return to town we had an evening at the “Opera Pampa” which is an open air show featuring music and dance with horsemen (Gauchos) on show. Mainly aimed for the tourists visiting Buenos Aires it did give some information on the history and development of the country since the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th Century.
17th & 18th April
The week-end was very relaxing with Saturday spent in Tigre (a town close by Buenos Aires). The day was spent on the estuaries of the River Plate with a group of Rotarians and spouses. We motored down the rivers in two boats for some time before stopping at a restaurant for a long lunch.
This was followed by a leisurely trip back to the boat club in Tigre before heading back to Buenos Aires. We were left to our own devices for the evening which was fine and time was spent in a bar/restaurant watching a local football match on TV, having a light dinner and making use of the free Wi-Fi.
Sunday we went to see the football match between Boca Juniors and Tigre (ended 3-3) but as this did not start until 4:00 pm we had time to see the old part of the city (San Telmo) where the Italian immigrants first arrived in Buenos Aires and to have lunch in a nearby restaurant. A hidden talent was found in our team as Jason Murphy was asked to take the floor of the restaurant to try his Tango dancing out. We have promised that we will only withhold the photos if he pays us a large fee.
This was a full day of activity with a visit to the Museum of Water. This was in fact a working building for the first location for water storage in Buenos Aires following a period of drought. Built in 1871 it was located at the highest point in the city so that water could provide a gravity flow to the public. The building itself was built as a palace which looks very opulent and still looks very grand. Inside is a series of water storage tanks which at the time could provide water supplies for half a million people. We were taken around by the director of the museum which now houses all things water as well as telling the history of water supply in Buenos Aires.
It was interesting to note that the building and the equipment was supplied and constructed by British Engineers with the main engineer named John F Bateman.
Getting across the city, especially on a Friday, was a nightmare and following the visit to the museum we met up again with the Rotary Club (RC Altos de Palermo) that was taking responsibilities for us for the day. Lunch was taken at a famous restaurant known as a meeting place for writers and poets for many years, but now turned into a restaurant.
After lunch there was a visit to the old part of the city to a building which had been renovated from the early days of Buenos Aires. The remains of the old city have never been found but this house has in the basement the dried out ravines from the first settlement of Buenos Aires in 1576. Everything has been lovingly restored with original materials where possible and with new materials to match the structure where necessary.
This was followed by a visit to the Government Offices of the City of Buenos Aires (the Legislature Palace, a grand building). There were TV crews and cameras all over the place, but not for us. Today was the day for the public to question the city government when they were all in chamber and this was being transmitted live. We spent a short time to listen but then moved on as we were being escorted around the building to see the meeting chamber and other rooms which were designed along the style of Versailles.
Following tea at the equivalent of the Ritz we went to the House of Tango. We didn’t see a show but we did get to see some people who were having lessons in the hall above the main theatre and restaurant.
Saturday 9th April / Sunday 10th April
The week-end was thankfully restful when we spent Saturday night at the country house of the next Deputy Governor of the District. What was most important was that we had access to the internet with Wi-Fi facilities.
Sunday was spent with the District Governors country retreat where we were treated to a barbeque with his family, friends and Rotarian guests. We returned late to Buenos Aires.
Visit to the City Government offices of Buenos Aires to discuss the project ACUMAR. This is the programme to clean up the Riachuelo, one of the tributaries of the River Plate.
The team dealing with the project is responsible for the control and development of water and waste around the Riachuelo. The project includes cleaning up of contaminated industrial areas along the banks as well as the cleaning up of the river.
Key points arising from the meeting:
Dealing with a problem started over 200 years ago
Problems of the growth of the city and illegal homes dumping waste straight into the river
Control over the waste (both liquid and solid) entering the river
Current project s in hand in addition to the clean-up of the river and the adjoining areas include the following:
Building of two new tunnels to control the flood water (more of that in a later bulletin)
Building a tunnel to deal with sewage (both hard and solid)
This is done against a background of political issues between the City Government and the Federal Government and the balance between doing popular projects and those that are actually needed.
Visit to the City Government of Buenos Aires responsible for Urban Development. Project team from their internal organisation HIDRAUKICA dealing with the overall programme on water management.
A presentation was given on the problems which the City has to deal with. Key summary as follows:
Buenos Aires suffers from too much water (City has been built on underground streams)
11 sources of water coming into the city. Water not soaking away with three underground rivers all filled for building and extending the city.
Three master plans have been developed to deal with the situation
Control the problem of flood risk
Deal with excess surface and subterranean water
Deal with old infrastructure and old areas with system
Fast growing city with 3.5m people growing to 13m during the day. There are strains on the existing system.
Garbage disposal now a problem as the city garbage is not being allowed into the other Regions outside the city and the city has to find its own solution
1985 flooding required action
Storms and changing weather patterns causing risks: they are covering for risks of 1-2; 1-3 and 1-10 bad storm years. There is a 50% chance of a 1-10 bad flooding risk.
In 1995 the World Bank agreed to fund a project for flood prevention. Aiming to create a sustainable project for the future
Tomorrow we will be taken to see one of the projects (Maldonado) which are two tunnels for flood relief.
Thursday 7th April 2011.
Visit to the site for the construction of the underground tunnels being built to prevent flooding of the city. Project MALDONADO.
A PowerPoint presentation by an Argentian called Mr. Hopwood who spoke English without an accent. (Obviously of English origins but born in Argentina)
Explained the project in great detail. Confirming the points from the City Government offices.
Inadequate system to alleviate flooding
No intervention in the system to improve the situation for 60 years
The exisiting system was built in the 1930’s
Increase in sewage causing potential contamination with drinking water
Increase in population and building construction
The project covers the construction of two new tunnels to run in parallel with the existing one to take up excess water from flooding
Two tunnels being constructed; the short tunnel covering 4.5km and the long tunnel covering 9.9 km. There is additional work covering the discharge and diversion work.
Both tunnels work on a gravity system. Pumps would only cause higher maintenance costs and risks of breakdowns.
There are two tunnelling machines operating
We were then taken down from the start of the work (which will be the finish when completed) along the bank of the River Plate. The pool which will take the excess water from the tunnel is 30m deep and covers an area the size of a football pitch. We were taken to the base of the large tunnel to look around and were asked if we wanted to go into the tunnel and see the work being done at the tunnel face. The next four hours were spent underground 30m below the streets of Buenos Aires and taken to the tunnel face as the tunnel was being dug and lined.