By August Zeidman.
On Friday, December 18th, the Ambassador of the Republic of Panama to the Netherlands, H.E. Ms. Elizabeth Ward, hosted and moderated a webinar regarding the current status of and future of water management in the Panama Canal. With opening remarks from H.E. Ms. Erika Mouynes, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Panama, and from Ambassador Carmen Vergara, Executive Director of PROPANAMA, the importance of sustainable investments for the future was greatly stressed. As a global commerce hub and gateway to the Americas’ so the status of infrastructure in Panama is a matter of great levity.
The Panel consisted of Eng. Ilya Espino de Marotta and Eng. Jose Reyes, respectively the Deputy Administrator of the Panama Canal and the Vice President of the Office of Water Projects.
The current status of environmental and water management policies was reviewed, with special emphasis placed on the changing aquatic landscape as a result of climate change. Rainfall has been significantly reduced in Panama in recent years, but more extreme in occurrence. Due to the operations not just of the canal, but also to the hydropower projects and potable water plants that keep a large portion of Panama’s population supplied, it is essential that further work be done to manage and maintain sufficient levels of freshwater in reservoirs.
In recent years many ideas have been proposed including transfer of water from the Bayano watershed to Lake Gatun, the creation of a new reservoir, increasing the maximum depth of the canal up to 100 meters, and the construction of desalination plants. While these are all viable ideas, the project that will be taking place in coming years primarily aims to increase water storage capacity, create additional fresh tributary inflows to reservoirs, and to increase control of waterflow.
The Panama Canal is currently accepting applications from contractors to be prequalified for the bidding process of the project. Additionally, while a preference was expressed for single party contractors, the idea of working with consortia for a joint venture is being considered if a party can present a clear case. Applications currently close on January 26 and further announcements will be made in early 2021 and will be able to be viewed at pancanal.com.