Friday, July 23, 2010

The World's Greatest Monument to Fraud and Destruction

This article explains the issues behind the Panama Canal project underway and why there is continued resistance to improving it responsibly and sustainably. Preservation of this crucial piece of world infrastructure should be at the top of international engineering and environmental agendas and not be used for continuing the pattern of global abuse of projects as vehicles for personal enrichment. Its future and that of world commerce are at stake, as well as the life-sustaining capacity of its watershed.
Gatun Lake Defense Committee (Comite ProDefensa del Lago Gatun)
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The World's Greatest Monument to Fraud and Destruction

by Bert G. Shelton, Professional Engineer & Research Scientist July 15, 2010

With start of construction of the Panama Canal's new locks, by the winners of a questionable bidding contest, the foundation is being cast for what will become known as the World's Greatest Monument to Fraud and Destruction.

If ever there were a project where ethics was cast to the wolves, this one is destined to top the list.

Throughout the checkered path of this project's “development”, never have so many scientific determinations been summarily dismissed using propaganda to convince project backers that the truth is something other.

While it was claimed by its promoters that every stone was turned to find the best possible locks to overcome the challenges the project faced, the patented response to requests for comment on dissimilar findings by independent assessors with regard to important engineering issues has been that “those opinions are not shared”. Regardless of whether the findings were a physical certainty or determined based on science, that response has remained a constant. From the outset, engineering issues have not been open for discussion or debate to “outsiders”.

The Panama Canal Expansion Project was announced with its new locks —its key element— already selected. In addition to claiming that all known lock systems were investigated prior to that selection, the propaganda following the plan's announcement went on to claim there had even been a contest among school children for lock solutions.

No claims could be verified, not even the supposed contest among school children, which would actually have been a good promotional tactic, although extremely unlikely to have yielded a technically feasible solution.

When the project's “Master Plan” was published, prior to the date of the project's “go-ahead” vote, the other designs it included —presumably those to which the chosen one was compared— were so unrealistic that to analyze them to dismiss them would have been ridiculous. Yet, summarily dismissed as too risky and 4 years too late was a patented ship lift submitted about a year prior to the vote —2 years after the project was announced. These facts suggest better options were never sought as the chosen design was being protected.

Unlike the enthusiasm and creativity that plans to construct the original Panama Canal generated, this expansion's planning was kept behind closed doors, an approach that will prove much to the detriment of the canal's clients.

The reason for all this is snag Easy Money by packaging a plan sure to gain “development” Bank loans.

This project has qualified for numerous loans from international “development” Banks, for which it had to meet specified Bank requirements. Since obtaining such loans is slow and time-consuming, it is apparent that quick establishment of the system's design and its “qualifications” was imperative to get those loans sooner than later, to which end no tricks or short-cuts were spared in insuring success.

Discussions or debates of technical issues that could mar the image being projected were not entertained. Studies by initially contracted reputable firms that proved unfavorable to the decided outcome were dismissed as inadequate and replaced with favorable reports rapidly prepared by subsequent contractors of dubious reputation. This was clearly done to eliminate the risk of these “technicalities” slowing or impeding loan approvals.

Thus, now being built is an addition to a key piece of world infrastructure that will transit only two-thirds the ships that an equally priced state-of-the-art system would transit per day using the same water. This inefficient lock choice —that is two generations old— will result in about 8 ships having to go around South America, each day, forever, or through the Suez, or not go at all; lost potential that will be recovered in tolls. Numbers don't lie, People do.

What's worse, the follow-on plan is to add another similar lane of equal cost, chosen to make select builders even richer. Yet, with a newer design, two lanes could be added for the cost of today's one, and two more for what the planned future one will cost.

Furthermore, the system being built will cost more to maintain than would a state-of-the-art design, and when operated will cause the extinction of creatures in both oceans, avoidable using more modern lock arrangements.

Through the power of money, that better locks exist has been kept out of all mainstream news. But, soon the canal will be dubbed the World's Greatest Monument to Fraud and Destruction as the truth is discovered by all.

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