will have to wait. al jazeera. and a reminders that you can keep up-to-date with all of the news all the time on our website, aljazeera.com. our top story the attempt to retake kunduz from the taliban. welcome to panama. i'd heard the stories of a rich and diverse forest. >> hi, buddy! >> i'd be lying if i didn't admit that i was psyched to be here. i'd find plenty of butterflies and a heck of a lot more. >> did you see that guy? >> that's what i could count on. but then, panama surprised me. techknow came here to check out
the massive panama canal expansion project but this trip would become much more. this is techknow. a show about innovations that can change lives. >> the science of fighting a wild fire. >> we're going to explore the intersection of hardware and humanity and we're doing it in a unique way. this is a show about science... >> oh, my god! by scientists. pink and purple paint the skies over a downtown city skyline. it could be any city in the world. but this is panama. a country stuck in the middle. one of latin america's richest. with overwhelming poverty, smack
in the middle of incredible wealth. but most of what makes panama great is its incredible canal. more than one hundred years old, and still an engineering marvel. this is one of the most amazing things i've ever seen, where massive ships glide between slim locks in an incredibly cool and perfectly synchronized ballet. welcome to techknow, we are in panama and all this
construction around me is for the expansion of the new panama canal. it is massive in size and scope. and especially when you see it from up there. the new canal, like the old canal, is all about moving massive ships between two of the world's great oceans. they're really just adding an extra lane here to fit the modern vessels of the 21st century. if you remember history class, the french started here in 1880. the u-s came in and finished the job in 1914, creating a canal for the ages, a 50 mile long fresh water shipping lane that cut directly across the slim isthmus of panama, allowing vessels to go between atlantic and pacific oceans.
we're here in gatun lake, and this ship is actually going thru the panama canal heading towards the pacific. now here in this tiny boat that ship looks huge next to us, but this actually nothing compared to the size of the ships that will be coming thru here in the near future. >> a lot of people tell me like "god you're going to go down in history like the original construction" so... >> ilya marotta is the woman in charge of this massive project. simply put, anything and everything that gets built here is on her watch. when you think of the building of the original panama canal, it is one of the most impressive engineering feats that mankind has done and now you are taking on this expansion. what is that like? >> it's a great feeling. this is a dream job for any engineer. >> we spoke from a perch along
the edge of the new canal construction. in april 2016, this will open for business. right now while the works goes on, we're getting some major access to this project. >> so what are we hearing right now? >> so, right now hydraulics jacks that life the gate, put them in the position for the maintenance bracket so they're getting ready to get these gate in its final position to do the testing so that is what they are doing right now. this gate number 1 we're in lock 1 on the pacific side and this is the smallest gate. it's 2,300 tons. >> that's the smallest gate? >> yes. >> these are the gates she's talking about. there are 16 of them. average weight: 3-thousand 300 tons. made in italy, then shipped to panama on a specially designed vessel. they represent the most obvious difference between the old canal and new. these are the old canal gates, they open and close. the new ones slide in and out of place.
how do you get a gate that size into something that narrow. >> very carefully. ( laughs) actually it was pretty neat. they have these, they look like skateboards with tons of wheels, she came down the road from on the ocean... ... and then they just maneuvered it with a little wheels inside the slot. they were millimeters of clearance to get her in. >> ok, millimeters of clearance in something that big. >> yes. >> another difference between the old canal design and the new are these water saving basins. >> so the water saving basins. are those those big giant ponds that we see over there. >> yes. >> what do they do? how does it fit into this? >> ok, the way the water saving basin are built, they have three different levels. and these levels go in hand in hand with the level of water in the chambers so the high level will go to the highest water saving basins, the middle one to the middle one, and then low to the low and then the ship will go to the next chamber. we will use 7 percent less water to put three times more cargo.
>> so, 7 percent sounds like a kind of small number but how many gallons are we talking about? >> right now we use 52 million gallons of water and the exisiting locks will use 48 million gallons of water. >> with a project like this, a million things are going on, all at the same time. there are 6 gate sections on the new canal. each comes with 2 gates, in case one fails. ilya sent us to gate #7 to see what was happening there. when we arrived, it was clear something was up, and it wasn't good. the language is a mix of italian and spanish. but the message is clear. there was a problem with gate #7. right now these guys are actually talking to 2 divers down below. they're in the middle of lifting up an entire piece of the lock so they have eyes on in the water. as the sun beat down on the exposed deck, down below dive teams were given scopes so the
bosses upstairs could see what was wrong. the issue revolved around the removal of a section of one of the large gates. a piece was misaligned, and divers are pulling straps underneath to get it right again. the team made fast work of the problem. so you looking here what do you see? >> the hook fitting the panels. >> and just as quickly as tensions rose, they fell into laughter as the giant door came out, just the way it was supposed to. success doesn't come easy, but here at the canal expansion, it has keeps coming. and that all points up to the woman at the top. >> now i've got to say everybody here is wearing an orange vest but you are wearing pink, why is that? >> you don't expect a woman to have this job so a lot of the people would say, "can you do it"? this guy said, "ilya you are married, you have a husband, you have 3 kids", i says, "you know i went to marine engineering college,"
if i'm a girl i should wear pink, (laughs). >> you own it. >> as we spoke workers dropped by in buckets; off to work on the sides of the new canal wall. it's too easy to get a tightly focused view in a spot like this. so i'm not going to lie, i was a little surprised of this getting here. it looks a little bit narrow for the size of the ships. >> yes, no it's not. it can be deceiving because it's so tall but when you go down below, we'll go, you'll see, you'll feel the magnitude of the chamber. >> can we go? >> yes, of course. >> and with that we were off, driving down below into the bowels of the canal. i couldn't help but think, this spot will go down in history. pretty soon ships will sail here. so where we are standing right now, this will be the panama canal? >> yes. >> that's kind of amazing. >> yeah, the new one. this will be flooded. no you will not be able to stand here in the dry pretty soon.
>> ok, so we are pretty lucky to be here right now. so what else can you see right now down here because there is no water? >> ok, lets go down here and look at the gate. >> this is the famous gate. >> wow! >> so this thing is massive. how much energy does it take to pull it to your end. >> a small motor, 80 horse power. >> 80 horse power to move this entire thing? >> because of the bouncy compartment only 15 percent of the weight of the gate is what's resting on that wheel. >> that's some pretty good engineering i think. >> it is, it's very awesome. >> so you are building this for the long run? >> yes, a 100 years just like the existing canal. >> and then, as you might expect, the head of engineering got an important phone call. and just like that, our time with her was up. we'd seen amazing things, but there was work to be done. after all, a project like this needs to keep on schedule. so when we look at this we see just a giant project with a lot going on, when you look at this,
what do you see? >> well, it's a dream come true because i saw paper, i saw dirt so when you see this thing being built from the ground up , it's like a dream come true, wow, it's a beautiful structure and you know in your head everything that is below and how everything is built so it's just a magnificent masterpiece. it's not just a lock. >> coming up... >> does it concern you? >> we are very worried, not only me, everyone in panama is very concerned. >> al jazeera america primetime. get the real news you've been looking for. at 7:00, a thorough wrap-up of the day's events. then at 8:00, john seigenthaler digs deeper into the stories of the day. and at 9:00, get a global perspective. weeknights, on al jazeera america.
the heat of the panama day starts early, usually with a slow but gorgeous sunrise, clouds creating a soft canvas over the chagres river as it winds its way into gatun lake. the mighty chagres. the day begins and ends here. they say everything in panama does. >> the struggle of panama is to keep this river which is the panamanian nile. you can't compare with any other river. >> the smithsonian institute's dr. stanley heckadon-moreno is considered the environmental conscience of panama. he studies his country from the galeta marine center, a science outpost that sits on a gorgeous stretch of beach on panama's caribbean coast. >> its almost impossible to explain egypt without the nile. you can't explain panama without the chagres. it's what makes possible this country. >> the chagres is the river that
was dammed up 100 years ago to form gatun lake, at the time the largest man-made lake in the world. large enough to float these massive ocean vessels. but gatun lake serves another purpose- supplying 80% of the fresh water to the people of panama. and that's why we're at the lake this morning. ariel rodriguez is a biologist from the university of panama. he's taking us on a tour of gatun lake, but this tour isn't of the usual sites. it wasn't long before we found what we were looking for. >> behind me that pump is for water but it's out of the water, that doesn't look normal. >> no, of course it's not normal. >> sadly the pump is just the beginning.
rodriguez told us to head out onto to the lake and we'd see what has many in panama worried. our boat is a small one, less than 25 feet. tiny on a lake the size of gatun, and no match for traffic. >> wow that's big. >> it's just after noon in the panama canal and that means it's rush hour we've got a container ship going that way, and this big blue one here that is the biggest size of ship that the panama canal right now can handle. >> this is the glovis clipper, a 58-thousand ton vessel. 50 mega-ships just like this one cross this lake and the canal every day. each one needs 52 million gallons to transit through the canal. that's a lot of water. but in 2015, panama, like much of the region is experiencing a terrible drought. >> have you ever seen it like this? >> i've never seen the water level so low. >> rogelio nunez is our captain. he is a man who knows this lake,
and knows what's happening isn't normal. >> what is it normally like in the rainy season? >> in the rainy season it rains every day now we go for weeks without a drop of rain. >> does it concern you? >> we are very worried, not only me, everyone in panama is very concerned. so you depend on water for your livelihood. >> that's right. panama depends on water. >> and with that, nunez and his crew steered us deeper into lake gatun. it wasn't long before we reached the spot everyone was talking about. >> so you can see the height of the rust that's how the water normally is right now during the rainy season, but the waters are so low, you can see the top of the tree trunk, and this isn't the only one. they stand like ghosts suddenly caught in the harsh hard light of day. acres of what was once a living forest now exposed for the first time in one hundred years.
>> this is the first time that wherever you go you find all these tree trunks that supposedly had disappeared forever but now they are rising. >> when engineers dammed up the chagres in 1914, they decided to leave this forest intact - figuring it was too costly to remove these trees. but a new reality is now at play. >> one only knows how serious the problem is when you live through it. >> along the edge of the lake, temporary pumping stations rigged up to reach the lower level of a now thirsty water system. this wasn't a postcard view of the country. but for the people here, it is an undeniable part of panama. >> water is life. water is life. >> the expansion of the canal will bring more, and even larger ships here. and that means more water will be needed. it's looking like it may be ships versus people for panama.
>> what has changed phil its that we weren't counting that the el nino would be upon us on such a strength on such an intensity, and length, and so here we are with a upgraded canal for bigger ships which is going to demand more water and as our urban areas around the canal get bigger and we have to face the future what is mother nature telling us? are we gonna have enough water are we gonna have el ninos more frequent. >> then, it was time to leave the lake behind. we drove back toward panama's sprawling urban center, still on a mission. this is bacora gardens, a village clearly suffering. hoses rigged to a temporary water tower supply a limited, undrinkable supply. jorge guzman lives here in his
modest home. this is a lucky day; water is flowing from his faucet. when it does, he must fill any household item he can find with water. our interpreter helped us understand what life for guzman and his family is like. >> he's saying today they have water but before that they didn't have for 3 days in a row. >> they spend weeks without washing their clothes. he's saying they don't take baths they just wash themselves because they don't have enough water to take a full bath. >> we're told bacora gardens isn't alone. all over panama, families like the guzmans face dry faucets. strange for a country known around the world for its abundance of water. >> this water is not infinite. and these logs are a symbol that we have a problem with the quantity of water and we have to
be careful with the management of the water. >> we wanted to know what the people in charge of engineering the new canal locks thought about all this. >> in the planning of the canal, did you account for things like el nino, things like climate change? >> el nino is something that happened in a hundred and 2 years of operation twice so its not something that you design for. you mitigate. >> do you think the canal is prepared for this climate future? >> well, i don't think we were expecting these changes so fast. >> you have confidence in the panama canal? >> oh yeah i have confidence in. i have confidence in the people who are running the canal. i have confidence that nature will return to its normal behavior. >> coming up: time for some panama fun. hanging out . sloth style. >> hi. oh my gosh.
>> it's saturday in panama. down here it's never too early to get the party started. panama is so many things: the giant ships are always an impressive backdrop, especially when you're trying to shoot an interview. >> so there is a rather large vessel coming right out that just went through the canal. >> that's right it transited from the atlantic into the pacific here. >> matt larsen is used to the ships. he's the director of the smithsonian tropical research institute here.
he loves to point out the incredible diversity in panama. for scientists, this is a dream location. >> what makes panama a unique place to study the environment? this is a remarkable place. because we have a very narrow ismis here- 50 mi at the narrowest point so we can get to either ocean the pacific or the atlantic in a matter of an hour. >> we spoke with matt at the smithsonian's nature center at culebra point, a narrow strip of land that juts straight into the ocean. ships were passing by, the sun was heading down for the night. it was time to get down to business. >> i understand there are sloths here? >> yes. >> can we go take a look? >> yes, let's go take a look they are very handsome. >> turns out sloths aren't the most outgoing animals. we had a bit of scanning of treetops to do. and then, we saw our first signs of life. >> there's one. oh yeah. oh there's another sloth right
there. >> he's just mooning you now. >> this is apparently prime time for sloths. and while the first two we spotted were pretty cool, we were about to get a better, crazier view. >> he might have fallen. >> we didn't expect him to be so close, so suddenly. >> ok, i got to be really close to you. so this amazing creature is a two- toed sloth, it's the closest i've been to one. lots' of times they'll come down to the ground to go to another tree. this guy actually might have fallen. hi, buddy! hi. >> we decided to switch cameras to get a better look. luckily we moved quickly, or at least compared to this guy. >> so, panama has everything its got the canal, its got the beautiful rainforest, and it has sloths. oh my gosh youre adorable. hi. >> just in case, you're not up on your sloth scoop, here's the 4-1-1. they are mammals. yes, they are slow.
primarily because they eat leaves which don't provide a lot of energy. they have a reputation for being sleepy and lazy, but smithsonian scientists using electronic tracking devices found wild sloths like these guys, sleep a lot less, 6 hours a day less, than the ones we see in zoos. but that's not all smithsonian scientists discovered. >> so in sloth hair the fungus they found could fight malaria, kill bacteria and actually fight human breast cancer. >> apparently yes, and its not exactly known why the sloths might have this. uh but its thought because they spend their entire life in the canopy they are exposed to the elements. >> so sloths theyre not only adorable but they may be life saving. >> then, as the sun turned the skies around us in to a picture postcard, the magic really happened. >> he looks pretty healthy. >> he does look healthy. >> what's pretty amazing is they're looking at you.
and it's not necessarily threatening. i think there's enough humans that have come in this area, but it's engaging and it's looking around and making its way up a tree. we're in panama and this sloth is just asking to be put on the internet for all to see. aren't you mister sloth. he just winked i think that's a yes. watch this. hi. oh my gosh. you guys look at this. i saw him scratching himself. and grooming a little bit. so it seems they know how to take care of themselves. so right now you can see there's actually a street light right there. we're by a parking lot and this kinda dusk time is primo sloth activity time when you actually see them move. since sloths don't exactly move too quickly we had plenty of time to do our work. but then, it was time to go. everyone say bye to the sloth. adios.
it is saturday night after all, and this is panama, but i don't think we'll be able to top this one. i mean does it get any better than this? dive deep behind these stories and go behind the scenes at aljazeera.com/techknow follow our expert contributors on twitter, facebook, instagram google+ and more. >> mdma helps with the therapeutic connection. >> exclusive access to the experimental tests. >> our fears are dancing between us. >> techknow's team of experts show you how the miracles of science... >> this is what innovation looks like. >> can affect and surprise us. >> i feel like we're making an impact. >> awesome! >> techknow - where technology meets humanity.
a battle for kunduz the u.s. launs airstrikes on the after ban city with taliban fighters are making advances. ♪ ♪ hello, you are watching al jazeera live from doha. also ahead, five people are sentenced to death in india for the 2006 mumbai traina at. the russian parliament approves president putin's request to deploy troops abroad. and protesters take aim at u.n. peacekeepers in the central african republic.