Water water everywhere and not a drop is clean

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There are alternatives to oil … There’s electricity in solar and wind, and electric cars. We can begin to do workarounds, albeit not rapidly, but over time we can work around and find alternative energy. But there is no alternative to water. It’s either there or it’s not. Edward Burtynsky

Last week, the Environmental Minister Miguel Leornadro Rodríguez and Hidrocapital’s president Ernesto Paiva Salas announced the start of a water rationing scheme, I mean, a special plan for water provision (now, doesn’t that sound much better?) for the Capital Caracas and the Altos Mirandinos region.

The reason given is that we are registering very little rainfall compared to last year. Now, I’m really not an expert, but José María De Viana is, and he talks water with PRODAVINCI. One of the point he raises is that reservoirs are supposed to act as buffers for the water supply, so the service can continue uninterrupted during low rainfall. He says rationing is due, in fact, to the mismanagement and lack of investment in the area.

Roger Martinez has a great document that shows the alarming state of the water supply network of Caracas (check it out if you’re into that sort of thing).The water supply network was designed and built between the 1950’s and 1970’s. Having some upgrades in the 1980’s. The network closely followed the formal urbanization of the city (well duh).

But the self-built housing boom in Caracas’s hillside slums starting int the 1970s put the network under serious strain. The system was designed to supply up to 1.290 msl and anything beyond puts an obvious strain on it. So you have places that can spend up to 60 days without water, that have low water pressure, and sometimes contaminated water gets into the system due to low pressure in the pipes.

Also documented in this report is how the capital’s water network pipes have reached their useful life and need to be replaced. Actually,the whole pipe system had to be changed about 30 years ago. It wasn’t, and that is why you have cuadrillas the capital scrambling about Caracas putting out “fires”. (I had a close friend working in Hidrocapital in charge of a cuadrilla that confirmed this). So with every pipe that bursts, you are loosing water that you should be rationing.

Mix into this cocktail, that 60% of the water consumed is not charged and many homes do not have a water meter (much like the electrical system).

And don’t forget either that many of the reservoirs meant for human consumption are showing signs of pollution. It really doesn’t help that the area right around La Mariposa, one of the main reservoirs, has become a Santería hotspot, with various two-bit shamans performing animal sacrifices and dumping the carcasses into the lake. (Yum!)

When you look at the big picture, you begin to see the real reasons for the water provision plan.

But this is Caracas we’re talking about, the rest of the country has been faring far worse in water supply for a long time.

One example: Margarita Island depends on the mainland for most of its water, having only three small reservoirs in the territory. The lack of maintenance on this system has caused any number headaches for the population (you will rarely find a house in Margarita without a proper water tank). In 2010 there was a major leak in the underwater pipeline, which was leaking a whopping 100 l/sec. Although the Minister Hitcher downplayed it, the technical report estimated that the rupture was probably ongoing for a couple of years.  Again, in 2012, another accident wasted millions of liters of water that were entering the Nueva Esparta system.

Another quick example: Táchira has had a rationing scheme since last year.

And it’s no better at the other end of the spectrum. Once the water is used, only 26% is treated, the rest, is discharged into  aquatic ecosystems as is, causing a bunch of problems, like eutrophication, water borne diseases and economic losses to the communities.

And since Karma is a bitch, some of that wastewater gets right back into our drinking water via reservoir pollution. Carabobo has been drinking polluted water since 2007,  when Hidrocentro began filling the Guataparo reservoir (a reservoir for human consumption) with water from Lago de Valencia, probably Venezuela’s single most polluted water source. La Mariposa even recieves wastewater from a CDI. Yep, medical waste. Water potabilization plants don’t have the capacity to treat this type of contaminants (because that’s is not their purpose).

Some of our three most emblematic (and problematic) bodies of water have been the focus of various sanitation projects. But last time I checked, the Guaire was still polluted, the heavy metal levels of fish from Maracaibo were still insulting and the Valencia lake was still eating everything in it’s path.

So sing with me:

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

And not a drop is clean!

(With apologies to  Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

1 COMMENT

  1. Sometimes i’m thankful this country does not run into industrialization grabbing the hand of, say, china.

    We have a sparsely populated territory and yet manage to fuck its environment beyond levels only a 1700’s english industrialist could dream of. Wonder how worst could this be with a hundred million population.

    i give venezuela 30 years before becoming a large chernobyl replica… We only need chavistas to start playing with nuclear energy and stuff

    • Those nutjobs won’t last another 30 years, mostly because either they’ll kill every other venezuelan to achieve complete and absolute control of Venezuela, or they’ll be kicked from power and locked into a cell for those next 30 years for their crimes.

      • They will Ralph, they will.

        Chavismo is too much fun for the average venezuelan to let it spoil. Maduro is rock solid in his position with little or no oposition and whoever dares to dissent, will be shot.

        There is no way maduro does not survive until 2019 unless coupsters from whithin chavismo depose him.

  2. Hidrocentro built a pipeline connecting Lago de Valencia, as you said, one the most polluted bodies of water in Venezuela with Valencia’s main water reservoir Pao-Cachinche.

    On top of this the sewage from Valencia, goes to Pao-Cachinche untreated.

    This has made virtually impossible to treat for human consumption, thus water rationing in the Central region of the country IS NOT BECAUSE OF LACK OF WATER!!!

    It is because the water reservoirs have become the city’s toilets!!!

    We are literally drinking our own shit!

    Check out the great work from our friends at http://movimientoporlacalidaddelagua.blogspot.com/

    • Chubeto, thanks a lot for that link.
      That’s a wonderful job those guys are doing.
      I wrote 4 years ago about what I could find out on the water problem from my clans in Valencia and from the local news. On top of all this Chavistas are pouring enormous amounts of substances to neutralise the organic material in the water but at the same time they are pouring there cancer-inducing substances.

      And the government does anything it can to prevent people from taking measures of water quality. This should go to some international court.

  3. This is just details, the entire water supply system is under very bad conditions. When De Viana was Hidrocapital’s president he started an investment campaign to create new water sources and to improve the existing one, Jackelin Farias and Alejandro Hitcher were then working as project managers and as Chavistas rajados they took De Viana out of the office in a very bad way, he was escorted by security like a criminal the day he was informed about his removal. Faris and Hitcher laughed at him as a sign of victory, I was there.
    Farias was named president and, like PDVSA, started a “purification” of the system (as she named). She fired anyone that was working with De Viana and stopped/suspended any project that could be related to him. Decided to start “las mesas del agua” which was a program to “discuss” community problems related to the subject. April 2002 came and this “mesas” became a “chavista topic only” meetings to defend the revolution. No more water investment or improvements were proposed only minor aqueducts that did not make a big difference to the major supply issue
    Around 3 years ago they “find out” how bad the Caracas system was and decided to invest in a new distribution system and started installing a steel pipe to create a new Tuy distribution system, they called my father as a consultant because they needed experinced help really fast. Started to built an old project they had in a drawer with an international firm (I don’t remember the name) that overcharged, and when I say overcharged I mean more than 3 times the real cost of the project. My father lasted less than 3 month helping this guys, corruption that creates this emergency decrees where projects are finger assigned and not by a proper bid/price process did let him a chance to do things the right way. He was forced to accept things because the contractor was “pana mio”, as soon as he refused the insults started. The best one was : you are not a cuartorepubicano, your are so old that you are probably from the second republic” This was Mr Hitcher, the president itself, talking about a consultant in front of everyone.
    I don’t know if Paiva is doing a good job or if he is prepare for this position. I did work with him while I was there, I can’t speak about him

    • “you are not a cuartorepubicano, your are so old that you are probably from the second republic”

      Made me chuckle.

    • No more water investment or improvements were proposed only minor aqueducts that did not make a big difference to the major supply issue.

      Very similar to what happened to electricity. Chavismo shelved most of the investment projects for electricity, also. Similar results- lack of potable water and lack of electricity. Maybe Chavismo is going to say, like they did with electricity, that Chavista prosperity and equality resulted in much more use of water.

        • I agree with getting the facts correct, however not holding Chavismo responsible for the debacle of the nation’s infrastructure is just plain stupid: who controls all the decision-making government entities? Who expropriated the distribution/generation companies? who controls the whole Water and Electricity sector?

        • Betty, lets start with facts based on your data. The period 2009-2010 demand increased in 8.5%, the production decreased 2.1%. The period between 2010-2011 demand increased 7.6% and production increased 3%. This is only the last 3 years of your data and it proof that demand increased, we are all aware of that but it also proof that production increases happened only when the balloon exploded. Emergency decrees and power outages affecting people and industrial productivity, if there is any left.
          The demand increase is the most mediocre excuse that they can make, it highlights their estimation and future planning capabilities. Designing a utilities supply system requires continues improvements and optimization to be ahead of the demand, that is basic engineering design. You cant design for the current demand, not even for a 5 year projection demand. Calculate that between design and construction it takes 3 years in a very high phase to complete the project, now your “brand new plant” will be obsolete in 2 years and you are already late for the next project that will be finished on year 6.
          A good engineer is not the one that can fix or solve a problem, everyone can do that. The good engineer is the one whi can see predict and solve a problem before it becomes one.
          This is the government of emergencies, we are getting used to work under emergencies. Examples are many, we can start with Viaducto caracas-La Guairá, we can name Guri, we can remember El Metro, we can now start talking about Hidrocapital, another one will be highways and roads around the country, and as engineer I can predict one coming really fast: healthcare.
          If we get a big earthquake, Caracas will collapse and healthcare will be the biggest problem. Even under “normal” conditions, the entire system collapsed a 3 years ago. Imagine when the day comes..

          • Excellent fact based response colega.

            Por favor no pierda el foco. Al trol no se le responde. No lo va ha convencer, No va a aceptar razones, Su trabajo es desviar la conversacion y molestar. No le de el gusto.

            Un fuerte abrazo.

          • “The demand increase is the most mediocre excuse that they can make, it highlights their estimation and future planning capabilities.”

            No. It highlights the fact that it is easier to raise people’s standards of living than it is to create a productive system that can provide for their increased consumption. Thus you see a massive increase in imports too.

            But, yeah, its all Chavismo’s fault! They shouldn’t have brought those people out of poverty to begin with!

        • Betty, credit to chavismo for the increase in electricity production, fault to chavismo for the financial obscurity, and fault to chavismo for the increase not being on par with the consumption.

          • Betty is actually Arturo. Identical manner of expression, but of course Arturo said so many stupid things, we now get a “new” pro-Chavez troll. Thee’s money in this, you know!

        • Apparently you have reading comprehension problems, so I will break it down for you

          Chavismo shelved most of the investment projects for electricity,

          Which it did. Which means that additional capacity is not built into the system. When consumption increases- as it historically does, but investment in additional electrical generating capacity is shortchanged, shortages result. Even under the miracle economics of Giordani. Believe it or not, electrical consumption also increased during the Fourth Republic. The reason that electricity shortages were much less of a problem during the Fourth Republic was that, compared to Chavismo, the Fourth Republic featured much more additional investments in electrical capacity.
          Here is some reading material for you.
          Petkoff: The Electric Comedy

          The arguments justify themselves are not even cynical because of their absolute stupidity. First it was the person responsible for planning, Giordani, who had no other idea but blame previous governments for the lack of investment in the sector. When they realized that after eleven years (ie, two governments of the their predecessors plus the fifth of another one), one had to laugh at the excuse of “previous administrations” , then they changed to “El Niño”. Now global warming is responsible, the summer drought, the declining water mass of the Guri dam.
          Nonsense. The simple truth is that the country has experienced the infinite inability of Chacumbele and his government team.
          Any planner except for Giordani and any president other than Chavez knows that if the population grows, demand for electricity grows and therefore it becomes necessary to invest permamnently and continuously to ensure that power generation will always be ahead of population growth.
          Nobody with half a brain would not realize that after five consecutive years of the oil boom, with an economic policy that encouraged excess imports and with it the growth of trade and construction that accompanies it, should have contributed as an additional reason to pay attention to investment in the electric sector. The worst thing is they can not even argue the lack of resources. There was excess of funds.
          But the inability and ineffectiveness of the government of Hugo Chávez are unbeatable. Not even years of frequent power outages throughout the interior of the country managed to sensitize the herd of useless bureaucrats who govern us.

          They did none of the things they had to.
          Giordani ruled that hydroelectric capacity had reached its limit and backed down from the construction of four dams on the Upper Caroni. Of the 29 power plants, which had to be operational since 2007, only five have been built , of which two are still inoperable and three are operating at one third of its capacity. Out of sheer laziness Planta Centro was allowed to collapse and nationalized Electricidad de Caracas suspended its investment plan. Of the investment in transmission lines only a quarter of the budget has been executed that would have financed work thats houdl ahve been completed in 2007. Under these conditions of a gap in alternate generation gap, Guri is overused and therefore its level falls beyond what a dry summer would cause. We come then to El Niño and other similar trifles. The government is to blame and nobody else. The country will not forgive him.

          When Chavismo doesn’t invest enough in increasing electrical generating capacity- and shelves previous plans for same- it assumes responsibility for shortages that accrue from increased use.

          • “When consumption increases- as it historically does…”

            Funny, that didn’t happen very much in the 1990’s when your buddies were trying out their neoliberal policies.

            Funny little coincidence…. Teodoro was the minister of planning during that spectacular period!!!

            Hahahahaha!! Thanks for the laughs man.

      • Here’s another one from Teodoro Petkoff, courtesy of Daniel, in Spanish They all knew about electrical woes for at least 7 years [October 2009]

        I am not going to translate it, no time today but below you can read in Spanish the Tal Cual article that explains how the government knew about the coming electrical crisis since at least 2002, and even before had they been paying attention. There is ONLY one guilty party for the current energy mess and it is Hugo Chavez. L eer y analizar los informes de los ingenieros de Edelca ¬que nos muestra el ex gobernador Andrés Velásquez- hechos en 2002 advirtiendo lo que ocurriría “entre 2009 y 2010” de no tomarse las medidas adecuadas junto con hacer un plan de inversiones que ellos detallaron, es comprender la causa de la actual crisis de energía eléctrica.

        Mas claro si se consultan dos informes de los ingenieros de Cadafe. Uno de 1997 y otro de 1999 ya con Chávez en el gobierno.

        Sin ser la empresa especialista hay un cuarto informe, de un equipo profesional de Bauxilum, también de 2002 y 2003, que ofrece parecidos análisis y conclusiones semejantes.

        Todo estaba dicho. Nada quedó sin analizarse. Casa cosa estaba prevista sin tratarse de predicciones de brujo, sino análisis con la experticia profesional y usando los datos y estudios de años.

        La Venezuela que comenzaba a ser gobernada por Chávez usaba la colosal inversión en hidroelectricidad, transmisión y distribución de energía hecha en continuidad administrativa por ocho gobiernos anteriores junto con la de empresas privadas como La Electricidad de Caracas.

        Y disponía de siete años para continuar la línea de desarrollo en inversiones a fin de no romper el equilibrio entre la oferta de energía de origen hidroeléctrica y la térmica, así como para evitar que los requerimientos de energía no tuvieran respuesta en la disponibilidad de la misma con el margen suficiente hasta para cubrir “años malos” por sequías.

        El presidente Hugo Chávez conoció todos y cada uno de esos informes. Todos llegaron a sus manos y a las de los de sus ministros de la economía, los presidentes de CVG, Pdvsa, los de Edelca y mas recientemente al de Corpoelec.

        Es mas, ocasionalmente, Chávez se refería a algunos de esos proyectos cuando hacía promesas dominicales, lanzando discursos gradielocuentes o colocaba “piedras fundacionales”. Lo que estaba era relatando los proyectos de aquellas listas, pero aderezándolos con su verbo, como si fuesen “ideas nuevas”.

        La recuperación de Planta Centro, las nuevas de EDC y de Oriente, las dos hidroeléctricas de Los Andes y Centro Occidente, la ampliación completa de Enelven en Zulia, entre otras.

        Chávez y los jerarcas de su gobierno siempre supieron -durante los últimos siete años- que ese plan de inversiones en plantas termoeléctricas, unas para recuperarlas y otras para sumarlas a las existentes era indispensable o habría crisis “entre 2009 y 2010”.

        Y que el sistema de líneas de 800 y 400 kv que llevan la energía desde Guayana a toda Venezuela debía seguir creciendo ¬nunca paralizarse como ocurrió en este septenio- para adaptarse al crecimiento.

        SIEMPRE LO SUPO TODO
        Dinero jamás le faltó pues justamente ese período fue el de la mayor bonanza de ingresos petroleros de nuestra historia. Poder político e institucional tampoco era problema. Todos los poderes e instituciones han estado en sus manos obedientemente.

        Y sin embargo, al día de hoy, transcurridos esos siete años, estamos en la más profunda crisis de energía eléctrica de nuestra historia moderna.

        Muy poco de aquel plan de inversiones se ejecutó. Casi nada.

        Lo más relevante fue que no “inventó” con Edelca en los primeros años y las obras de Caruachi continuaron y su gobierno las concluyó.

        Muchos proyectos ni siquiera se iniciaron. Ni en las termoeléctricas destinadas a ser recuperadas ni en las nuevas. De Planta Centro apenas funciona a medias uno de cinco generadores. Tampoco en los sistemas de transmisión. Peor aún, se le metió “plomo en el ala” a la otrora eficiente Edelca al partidizarla y luego al quitarle toda su autonomía, tras centralizar en la burocrática Corpoelec.

        Por eso está Guri, por vez primera en su historia, con seis de sus 20 unidades generadoras paralizadas.

        Por eso anda Planta Centro más “en el suelo” que nunca, con una sola unidad funcionando a medias y las otras cuatro paradas.

        Estatizada EDC, se paralizaron las inversiones en la nueva termoeléctrica de esa empresa que debía sumarse a Tacoa.

        Por eso ahora Chávez hace discursos y “cadenas” tratando de “inventar un enemigo” y desviar las culpas hacia “el Sambil y los Malls” (que en realidad gastan apenas el 0.3% del déficit actual) o hacia “el derroche de los venezolanos”. Para tratar de ocultar sus propias culpas.

        Por eso estamos “de apagón en alumbrón” en medio país y el gobierno imponiendo un plan de reducción de la demanda, que incluye arruinar más a Sidor recortando las horas de uso de sus hornos eléctricos y manteniendo en la ruina a las destartaladas empresas del aluminio dejando sin reparar sus más de 300 celdas de reducción de aluminio dañadas para que no consuman.

        “Chávez no puede pretender hacerle creer al país que el problema es el despilfarro en lugar de confesar la verdad: el problema está en la desinversión de su gobierno en la generación de energía”, remata Andrés Velásquez.

        “El tiene que responder por los serios daños colaterales a la calidad de vida de las personas por el racionamiento residencial y al comercio. Los serios daños a la industria estatal y a la privada. En nuestras cuentas se han regalado unos 47 mil millones de dólares en el exterior. Con menos de un tercio de eso se habrían hecho todas las inversiones eléctricas y mas”, señala mostrando los informes.

        Y finaliza: “incluso el proyecto Tocoma ¬con todo y ser financiado por el BID- tiene retraso de al menos dos años”.

        Chavismo isn’t to blame for lack of investment in electrical generating capacity which results in shortages? Decime/dime otro de vaquieros, pues.

      • BT: “When [electricity] consumption increases- as it historically does…”

        Betty:

        Funny, that didn’t happen very much in the 1990′s when your buddies were trying out their neoliberal policies.Funny little coincidence…. Teodoro was the minister of planning during that spectacular period!!!

        Again,you have a reading comprehension problem, or in this case a problem in reading data off a graph.The data which you provided showed a steady increase from 1990 to 1998-Chavismo took over in 1999- in electricity generation from 59.3 to 80.9 billion billion KWH.
        Betty:

        ahahahaha!! Thanks for the laughs man.

        Yes, your inability to interpret data off a graph is very entertaining.
        Let us revisit Giordani’s investment decisions.

        Giordani ruled that hydroelectric capacity had reached its limit and backed down from the construction of four dams on the Upper Caroni. Of the 29 power plants, which had to be operational since 2007, only five have been built , of which two are still inoperable and three are operating at one third of its capacity. Out of sheer laziness Planta Centro was allowed to collapse and nationalized Electricidad de Caracas suspended its investment plan. Of the investment in transmission lines only a quarter of the budget has been executed that would have financed work that would have been completed in 2007.

        Had Chavismo not stopped the investment plan handed it when taking office, Venezuela would not have these shortages.

        Repeat:Very similar to what happened to electricity. Chavismo shelved most of the investment projects for electricity, also.
        Try to ignore it as you will, this is what occurred, with inevitable consequences.

        This is my last communication on this thread.There is no point in further dealing with someone who has such reading comprehension issues and cannot or will not properly interpret data off a graph.

        • “.The data which you provided showed a steady increase from 1990 to 1998-Chavismo took over in 1999- in electricity generation from 59.3 to 80.9 billion billion KWH.”

          You said CONSUMPTION smart guy. Talk about a problem with reading comprehension!!!

          Again, thanks for the laughs. You’re tearing it up man!

          • Betty/Carlson – Hurts when the truth comes out about how pathetic your hero Chavez really was, doesn’t it?

        • “This is my last communication on this thread.There is no point in further dealing with someone who has such reading comprehension issues and cannot or will not properly interpret data off a graph.”

          I agree 100% man. Come back when you can get consumption and production figured out…. Haha!!

  4. I understand from a statistical table I read some years ago that a significant percentage of the electricity generated by most power plants in Venezuela is lost in transmission or stolen in transit before it reaches its destination , more than is common in other countries . I also know of a case where water sent through a water line was syphoned off by people along the way and used for private purposes , its common knowledge also that getting people in barrios and rural towns and hamlets to pay for the electricity and water they use is almost impossible .

    If you let people have the free use of a resource or to access it by paying a heavily subsidized fee there is bound to be a lot ot waste in its use . People dont appreciate what costs them nothing or next to nothing so they make an irrational use of that resource . Ours has always been a piñata country were public services are given for free to court the political favour of all those people who dont pay what those services cost to produce .

    This is a problem that compounds an already difficult situation and makes it worse : Ultimately it breeds a rentier mentality of irresponsibility and waste.

    Anyone have any data on the extent of this phenomena in Venezuela ??

    • Off the top of my head, I believe I had read that one quarter of Venezuela’s electricity production is not metered/not paid for. Which definitely reduces the funds available to invest in additional capacity.

      • In the early 1990’s, PDVSA briefed the media and business community in Lagunillas and Cabimas about plans to improve electrical service along the eastern shore of Lake Maracaibo. The briefing included the remarks that, (a) about half the electricity generated was not billed, and (b) half the energy billed was not paid for it.

    • Chavismo and its castrista handlers exacerbated the problem by giving the pueblo exactly what they wanted, more populism , more demagoguery.

      Whoever wants to take the coroto and make a change, will deal with increased expectations of populism, and free lunches.

      *(some times I hope Capriles strategy responds to this realization, and that his populist offer “I will be a more efficient populist that chavez was”, is based in a pragmatic ” first take power, then make changes” approach).

      realpolitik calls for pragmatism, however I am continuously disillusioned how the current opposition frames its discourse to challenge the incumbents.

    • Years ago when I was involved it was estimated that 16% of the pumped volume to Caracas was used by illegal plugs. Hidrocapital worked against it really hard but due to political issues the matter was left aside. The worst supply system regarding illegal plugs is Turimiquire. This is the one that supplies water to Margarita.
      I drove the alignment once, back in the late 90s and you will find the entire area is very dry with exception of very green spots where land owners and ranchistos just dig, welded a 1″ nut to the pipe and then with a hammer perforated the pipe for free unlimited water.
      Another 15% goes through leaks caused by malfunctioning WC or water faucets as the main reason for the waste. Back in the day, a campaign for “free WC fix” was implemented but people did not like the idea of estrangers getting into your house. All this because they have free water and they don’t care if it is wasted or not.
      You don’t have an idea how I suffer very time I got to a public restroom and see a running faucet or toilet. IT freaks me out

  5. Betty is a shill – I can tell by her phrasing and diction and world choice she’s a native English speaker. But the fact that there are still people like her defending the merits of the dead-end kabuki that poses as government in Venezuela underscores a loco-mentality in full denial of the truth – that the country is melting down, that in an age when we can get a radio wave back from Pluto, the powers that be can’t keep the populace in papel de bano – and most of all, that it’s ALWAYS someone else’s fault. That’s what we call alcoholic thinking. and there’s no solution because one needs to take responsibility for something before change can happen. As is, all we can do is hang on as the whole shebang rumbles to the edge of the abyss. Ther’es probably no fixing things now. They’ll probably have to totally crash – then hope the Phoenix can once more rise. And probably then, locos like Betty will be braying about the virtues of the very system that shit-canned the richest country in Sur America. Que Barbaro!.

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