The Fortaleza project has been busy in the San José Palmas neighborhood. First of all, the residents of Mar Street decided to organize to improve living conditions on their block. In this area of San José Palmas, many houses do not have an integrated drainage system for their water. In such cases, sewage goes into an individual septic tank with limited capacity. However, wastewater from bathing and washing clothes and dishes is simply left to drain out into the street. Since the streets in these areas are unpaved, the street is always full of mud. In this case, the local elementary school also sits at the bottom of the Mar Street hill. The wastewater runoff was running downhill and damaging the walls of several classrooms. The Mar Street neighbors decided they would install plumbing and drainage systems in each home in order to protect the school from further damage.
The municipal authorities had installed an underground wastewater collection tank in the street. This tank drains into the public sewer system. However, problems began when neighbors began trying to install the necessary plumbing. One neighborhood leader insisted each household would have to pay her $2,500 pesos ($193 U.S.) to connect their drains to the tank. Her argument was that, since she filed the paperwork with the municipality to have the collection tank installed, the rights to its use belonged to her.
At this point, the residents of Mar Street came to Project Fortaleza for help. Fortunately, Project Fortaleza was able to obtain a written document from the municipal water company that clarified that wastewater collection tanks are public works. As such, it spelled out clearly, the tanks are available for public access at no charge. This success motivated the residents on four neighboring streets to form two additional citizen improvement committees. Both of these committees grew rapidly during the month of June. The first project that each of these committees is going to take on is to install plumbing and drainage systems to underground wastewater collection tanks on each of their streets as well.
At ConeXión Mosaico, we do not pretend that we can alleviate urban poverty. However, we do believe that the urban poor have the power to improve their own living conditions. Trust and cooperation between neighbors, as well as civic participation, is often very low in slum communities. Unfortunately, there seems to be no lack of people willing to take advantage of these conditions for their own ends. When you support ConeXión Mosaico, you are helping to put a stop to corruption and exploitation. You are helping the most vulnerable find their own power. You are helping to build healthier, more just communities.