Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bogotá's Holey Streets

Entrance to another world? For awhile, someone was living inside this open sewer near Palo Quemao. 

You've jumped over them or skipped around them on Bogotá's streets and sidewalks. Maybe you've almost broken your leg in one. And you've wondered what could possibly have happened to half of the city's sewer lids.

Don't fall in! Someone inserted a cardboard roll
into this sewer entrance.
In fact, many of the sewer lids have been stolen, to be sold to scrap dealers who melt them down for the metal. I've heard that some thieves even have vehicles with round holes cut into the floor. They stop over a sewer lid, probably at night, and steal it without even getting out of the car - and without anybody noticing, until after they've driven away.

The city responded a few years ago by importing from Mexico plastic lids with the words 'Non-Recyclable' written on them. Later, a Bogotá company started making them. But these plastic lids have disappeared, too.

Now, El Tiempo newspaper has lifted the lid on the sewer lid market, thanks to some tracing chips hidden in some of the imported lids. It turns out that the plastic lids are being trafficked to  a hardware store in the city of Neiva, which sold them to the city for about 500,000 pesos each - even tho many still carried the name Acueducts of Bogotá on them.

Please don't steal me! A non-recyclable plastic sewer lid.
This one's  on the street, but is it on its way to Neiva?
An official of the Neiva Public Companies told El Tiempo that "it was possible we were fooled." Or that they kept their eyes shut.

All of which just begs the question of why they don't just do some sting operations. Unlike a bicycle, a cell phone or a stereo, any private person who buys or sells a sewer lid is by nature a criminal. So, why not hire someone to visit scrap dealers offering cheap sewer lids. Any scrap dealer who buys should be fined, and if he does it again, get his business shut down.

That should save the city money - and also the legs of many pedestrians.

Watch out for me!

An iron and cement lid. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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