Beautiful view of La Ceiba and the Cangrejal River from the airplane.
Flying out of La Ceiba on Saturday morning, I look out of the airplane window and see the Cangrejal River flowing rapidly through the City after a night of heavy rain. I’m reflecting on how much I’ve learned about La Ceiba in the last week. In the over 100-year history of the city, ceibeños have leaned to live with water and protect much of their natural landscape, from rainforest mountains to sand beaches. But there are challenges in providing municipal services in a city that lies largely in a floodplain, particularly in the face of climate change. This week, my hosts in La Ceiba City Hall introduced me and the CityLinks team to the challenges and opportunities they face.
While there are obvious differences between Somerville, MA and La Ceiba—no one is worried about 10 feet of snow in Honduras!—I have been struck by the similarities: localized flooding due to constrained infrastructure, development and growth that should be more sustainable, dedicated City employees who are struggling to operationalize complex climate change information. Residents of La Ceiba live with regular flooding of streets caused by litter-clogged stormwater drains and a wastewater system that is taxed by unauthorized storm drainage connections. Both permitted and informal settlements are constantly popping up in coastal and riparian flood zones—the city has three rivers and countless creeks—where residents’ property and safety are at risk. The environment, emergency response, and water and sanitation departments are unsure of how to address climate change, particularly when their limited resources are dedicated to addressing day-to-day concerns.
The CityLinks partnership with La Ceiba offers Somerville the opportunity to provide technical solutions and recommendations. I also see this as an opportunity to share lessons learned; no city can claim to have fully adapted to climate change. Somerville is proud of work we’ve done with infrastructure, land use, and climate change planning. We know that, as municipal governments, we have the difficult task of providing critical services to the public while trying to make sense of complex and daunting climate change projections. We are looking forward to helping La Ceiba better understand climate change risk and share experiences on how to incorporate climate
Gustavo Urbina of La Ceiba and I exchange presents.
change into city management and decision making. This can be as simple as adding a small retention pond in a neighborhood park, or as complex as ranking capital investments by climate change risk. We're also looking forward to learning from La Ceiba's experiences, such as neighborhood preparedness organizing.
The first trip of this partnership resulted in an excellent exchange of information. We also formed strong working relationships with the municipal government in La Ceiba. I’d say we also struck up a friendship!
Urban neighborhood next to a creek