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The Panama Canal Essay

Example Essay on The Panama Canal:
The Panama Canal is an international waterway that stretches up to 50 miles connecting two large water bodies namely the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. The record of Panama Canal dates back in 16th century. The water way has since simplified the passage of ships between these two water bodies cutting across the Isthmus of Panama. Since 1819, the Panama Canal has been a property of Colombia until 1903. The United States of America successfully conducted the construction of the canal between 1904 and 1914 as a result of gold discovered in California in 1848. The construction of the canal was important to reduce time and distance traveled between Pacific and the Atlantic. The initial inhabitants of the canal were Indians and U.S citizens. History states that, in 1869, the French government had attempted to construct the canal after the Suez Canal’s construction was completed; that inspired them but failed. The French had first undertaken a project to create the Suez Canal; a project that was successfully completed without much struggle. This motivated the French to rush into starting the construction of the Panama Canal. This canal was not as easy as Suez Canal because the French did not have appropriate procedures and equipments. Hence, France wasted millions of dollars, and still failed due to factors beyond their control. Before the Canal was built, ships used to travel double the distance through Cape Horn. This was the largest engineering project to be undertaken and successfully completed despite the failure by the French. In present day, the canal plays the role of a commercial venture as well as a link in world shipping (DuTemple 32).

Ever since its completion, the canal has seen an increase in ship traffic from 1,000 ships in 1914 to 14,000 in 2008, and approximately 825,000 ships have traveled the canal. Civil engineers of the American society have termed it as one of the wonders of the present world. Although the Panama holds an economic advantage, it has a major disadvantage; large ships such as military battleships, large oil tankers and aircraft carriers cannot pass through the Canal due to its limited size. Fortunately, a 5.2 billion dollar project is underway to be completed in 2014 that aims at expanding the Panama Canal to accommodate much larger ships (Jeong Crittenden and Xu 4).

The French failure to construct the canal was based on several challenges. The French had a faulty project that did not take care of basic issues such as the rivers that flooded the canal that would turn constructions difficult. In this project, the French engineers overestimated the time taken to complete as eight years as opposed to ten years for Suez Canal. At the end of the ten years, completion was not in sight, and in fact, abandonment was the decision being considered. Accidents and infirmities exemplified by malaria, as well as yellow fever, claimed approximately 20,000 lives of canal builders. The diseases were rampant because the canal runs through the Panamanian jungle that is infested with dangerous insects like mosquitoes (DuTemple 37).

The role that the mosquitoes played in transmitting malaria was not known by then hence high death rate recorded. This was the most serious challenge that made the French quit the project. The mosquito elimination project included identifying and separating patients suffering from different diseases. Burning of sulphur and pyrethrum proved to be effective in eradicating mosquitoes. In addition, the French did not have the right equipment for the heavy-duty job, as the area is volcanic in nature having been constituted of rocky surfaces. The attempt by the French started in the year 1882 with 20,000 men at work and ended in 1892. In 1892, France hired another company to undertake the project but still failed although the second company had good strategies that assisted the U.S in completing the task. Consequently, the French endeavors went bankrupt as a result of loss of experienced people; thus, abandoning the project immediately after nine years of work. Other contributors of failure include mismanagement of funds and political fraud. Surprisingly, the work completed assisted Americans in completing the task despite the fact that America had an upper hand due to the advancement of technology (Haskin 4).

The construction of the canal was negatively influenced by insufficient skills in engineering, organization and sanitation problems. The Victorious Conclusion of the project was due to engineering skills of men like John F. Stephens and health solutions by William C. Gorgas. However, people with such knowledge were few; this slowed the procedures down as few men had knowledge of administration. Other engineering challenges encountered included the amount of digging required, constructing the biggest gates of the time and creating the biggest dam of the time (DuTemple 43).

The French design of the Canal had shortcomings like failure to address flooding from river Chagres that restrained construction process. On the other hand, U.S engineers had studied these challenges and came up with a design that overcame most difficulties. Some of the solutions discovered included the construction of a large dam at the mouth of river Chagres. Mosquitoes spread diseases were nearly eliminated by proper sanitation tactics by the U.S (Joeng et al., 8).

President Roosevelt was the acting president of the time who presided over appointments of engineers to carry on with the construction. A reservoir lake for the canal was constructed to curb the level of the water issue. The canal constitutes of artificial lakes, artificial channels and sets of locks. Despite all the setbacks involved in the construction of the Panama Canal, there are many advantages and benefits associated with the operation of the canal.

The main reason why the canal was built is to ease transportation. Contrary, other effects on the immediate environment are noted. These effects included physical and social-economic impacts. Shipment transportation by road has not proven effective as compared to water transportation for bulk goods. The Panama Canal served a good role in faster transporting of bulk consignment. There were many benefits associated with the canal that still apply even today (Haskin 7).

First, the canal provided water used for hydropower production, human utilization, industrial deployment and transportation for inhabitants and countries that bordered the canal. Some uneven sections of the canal provided perfect ground for hydropower production used in homes and industries. These industries also benefited from the readily and easily accessible water for their operations. In addition, Inhabitants of Panama used the water for agricultural purposes to support the industries with raw materials and resources (Cameron and Dodds 3).

Microclimatic changes have also been experienced since the construction of the canal. These climatic changes have been positive and negative, as well. In some areas, improved climatic conditions like rainfall have been observed. Developments of forests around the area has also commenced in the area. On the other hand, emergence of industries led to depletion of forest cover to construct the industries. This has seen the area experience long dry spells that are not appropriate for the canal’s water levels. Geographically, this waterway has contributed to cool climate for the surrounding environment hence low evapo-transpiration for water conservation while industries have brought dryness. Loss of the ability to capture carbon is another negative impact on the climate. Other effects include exposed soil surfaces, shrubs and lack of pastures (Cameron and Dodds 11).

Availability of water has encouraged cattle ranching and exclusive profit-making agricultural practices for residents. This further provides meat industries with raw materials for processing. Support dams and manmade lakes have been built to reinforce water scarcity problem that may arise from prolonged droughts. This has in turn provided further ground to practice agricultural profitable business adding to the economy (Cameron and Dodds 16).

The Canal has provoked economic advancement for Panamanians. Income from agriculture and fishing practiced in the surrounding areas has contributed up to 7%of Gross Domestic Product of Panamanian economy. Additionally, 120,000 express and non-express jobs have been created in different sectors. Such sectors include the tourism industry, field of agriculture, fishing and processing industries constructed (Mann 5).

Different ideas have been suggested for an efficient construction and expansion of the canal for better presentation. Building of two lock complexes, one on the Pacific side and another on the Atlantic side each constituting three chambers. These chambers should in turn contain three water saving basins. Access channels should be excavated to these new locks and extension of existing channels so that large ships can navigate on them. Suggestions indicate that navigation channels ought to be deepened to provide maximum operating depth.

The purpose of expanding the Panama Canal is to preserve and uphold competitiveness of the canal, maintain the importance of the Canal course by making superior benefits for the vast population of Panama. Another objective of expanding the canal is to boost its potential to meet the increasing requirements for transit while working at maximum levels of productivity possible. The key aim in consideration is the ability to allow large ships to transit through the canal as this would enhance the canal output. Maintenance tasks on the ships and other water vessels require adequate space, so that relevant servicing services can be performed. The expansion of the canal would increase room for these tasks and eliminating congestion of ships (Mann 13).

Despite of the advantages involved with the expansion of the waterway, there are negative effects to it. Increased ship traffic and building activities would most likely lead to air and noise pollution. Alteration to the current geological features and formation of the canal can lead to landslides and soil movements that in turn cause deaths. Other possible impacts include loss of forestry ability, impact on fauna, and commotion to wild animals, wildlife road kill impact and influence on protected areas.

Positive impacts likely to be observed embrace motivation to the economy by improving exports by 10%, fiscal revenues improve by 32%. Job creation is the major challenge facing young people all over the world. Expansion of the canal would call for more work forces hence creation of jobs for citizens and natives. Relocation of people from other areas to Panama would increase due to the advancement in economy aspects. The project is projected to have an impact on infrastructure that includes improvement I the sewerage systems and construction of new roads to cater for inland transit services. Establishment of processing plants would call for the establishment of high voltage power cables to supply enough power to meet Panama’s demands. An increased necessitation to transport goods, vehicle traffic would increase (DuTemple 17).

Eviction from industrial areas would be a major issue affecting the minority living in Panama, as business owners would evict residents from their homes to provide ground to build the plant. Before residents get used to new working conditions, accidents related to work would be prone. As experience advanced, accidents reduced by up to half. Experience was enhanced by the busyness of the Canal that called for extra working hours.

Advancement of economy goes hand in hand with crime. Crime rate reduces due to availability of employment for all willing citizens. Tourists are a major influence on a country’s economy by contributing to the revenue. Isthmus has steep slopes that are good sites of tourist attraction in Panama. Industrialization always attracts tourists who pay for visiting the country; hence, increase in revenue. Competition between canals has also been analyzed concerning transit numbers. Transit goods are increasing every day; these being the case researchers are viewing the Suez Canal as a proper alternative (Jeong et al 10).

Fortunately, disadvantages involved can be solved by having a citizen participation program, risk prevention program and environmental education. For a successful and a sustainable development, interrelations, citizen participation and environmental conservations should be observed. If a persistent problem were found, an alternative to that would be a wise decision.

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The Panama Canal Essay
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Sep 4, 2012

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