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Katrina, New Orleans and the Army Corps of Engineers

In a scathing criticism of the Army Corps of Engineers, and generically of the way that the various Government institutions such as Congress and Senators representing the state of Louisiana operate, TIME has published an article talking about investigating why the flooding of New Orleans happened after hurricane Katrina, and the prime reason seems to be because of defective policy by the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as a great deal of bad allocation of funds by Congress to meet electoral (political) and other needs rather than a good deployment of these funds over a period of time. This is a good article, a must-read:

The most important thing to remember about the drowning of New Orleans is that it wasn’t a natural disaster. It was a man-made disaster, created by lousy engineering, misplaced priorities and pork-barrel politics. Katrina was not the Category 5 killer the Big Easy had always feared; it was a Category 3 storm that missed New Orleans, where it was at worst a weak 2. The city’s defenses should have withstood its surges, and if they had we never would have seen the squalor in the Superdome, the desperation on the rooftops, the shocking tableau of the Mardi Gras city underwater for weeks.
The real culprit was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which bungled the levees that formed the city’s man-made defenses and ravaged the wetlands that once formed its natural defenses. Americans were outraged by the government’s response, but they still haven’t come to grips with the government’s responsibility for the catastrophe.
Many of the same coastal scientists and engineers who sounded alarms about the vulnerability of New Orleans long before Katrina are warning that the Army Corps is poised to repeat its mistakes—and extend them along the entire Louisiana coast. If you liked Katrina, they say, you’ll love what’s coming next.

A lot of this discussion just does not get heard. With a presidential election in full swing (albeit very early), most of the discussion is about the swinging fortunes of the candidates, or about the latest act of famous starlets, or about the genuineness of the record home run baseball hitter. All this time, a lot of scientists are screaming about what the reconstruction of New Orleans is not doing.
The basic thrust of the article is: New Orleans is on a place where river sediment carried by the Mississippi would create some elevated areas, and at the same time, there would be a barrier of wetlands, mangroves and swamps that would reduce the thrust of a hurricane. However, since the Corps over a period of time carried out a series of steps to regulate the river, sedimentation was reduced; further activities had a major impact on causing a slow destruction of the wetlands and also let the Gulf expand way inwards. And in an ominous conclusion, the claim is that the further plans of construction of a large number of leeves all along the coast will cause further destruction of the wetlands. And the elected representatives are more interested in pork, or diverting money to electorally appealing projects. Such an article should be debated, if only for the sake of the number of people who dies in the flooding after the storm.

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