Sufferers don’t care ’bout colour
Sufferers don’t care ’bout race
Sufferers don’t care who migrate from where
Or who living in who place.
Sufferers don’t care who from country
Sufferers don’t care who from town
Sufferers only want to know
Where de next food coming from.
Calypsonian Black Stalin
When the noted Trinidadian calypsonian composed that gem of a song his lyrics were meant to be a condemnation of those who thrive in an environment where one race dominates another, but we find it most appropriate to put in focus an issue that is impacting on far too many Barbadians and about which the enthusiasm of the Government, both past and present, appears noticeably lacking.
Interestingly, however, the issue about which we speak has been impacting rich and poor, black and white (though not equally) for some time. We are talking about the clear inability of the Barbados Water Authority to carry out its mandate of providing an adequate supply of drinking water to Barbadian homes and businesses on a 24-hour bases.
We would be nothing short of insane to blame the BWA for the fact that we are a water scarce country, which by its very definition would suggest that the population should not be surprised anytime there is a shortage of water.
Unfortunately, it is clear that our problems relate more to poor management of the resource than a shortage of it. For nearly two decades Barbadians have been hearing “official” estimates ranging from 35 per cent to 60 per cent in terms of the water that is pumped from the bowels of the earth, at a cost to taxpayers, but which for various reasons never make it to the taps of suffering users.
How could we have allowed such an untenable situation to go unaddressed for so long? At the same time, however, we have the unfortunate situation of the BWA building a new multi-million dollar headquarters, while every day it has to deal with more than a dozen major leaks flowing from a system of water mains that should long have been replaced.
It is true that the new complex is being built through a BOLT arrangement with the private sector, and that the BWA’s workers have been scattered far and wide, often in less than ideal accommodation, a clear indication that the new offices are needed.
Our question: Is the office space a greater priority than the delivery of water to suffering households and businesses across the country? That the authority has made considerable progress on one and offered the public more talk and explanation than action on the other would suggest where taxpayers should look for the answer.
It is now about five years since the BWA started construction of a new high-capacity pipeline from the desalination plant at Spring Garden, and as far as we are aware, that project has been suspended at less than the halfway mark and so far it has taken no water to anyone? Is the new administration complex a greater priority than this pipeline?
For years now Barbadians have been told that if development in the eastern and south-eastern section of the island is to get back on track a new pipeline and relating pumping facilities must be constructed from Spring Garden at least to the Rising Sun reservoir on the Christ Church/St. Philip border. That because the existing network can’t support new homes and businesses.
Again, the country has gotten a lot of talk and promises, but so far not one foot of pipeline has been installed. Is the construction of this pipeline less of a priority than the new headquarters building?
Every day Barbadians, particularly in St. Joseph, St. Andrew and St. Thomas complain about water outages, yet there is a desalination plant with 25 per cent unused capacity because the BWA’s network can’t take more. Need we ask the question again?
For decades residents of rural communities were accustomed to water outages when the “crop” started and the sugar factories got up to full steam. Many, while not necessarily happy, accepted it because it was for a clearly defined period, and many of the same families benefited direct from the harvest.
These days, given the amount of canes available for the sugar mills, it is hardly likely that the two remaining factories use the quantities of water they once did, so what’s the excuse? (And there are no sugar jobs to speak of.) We believe a broad hint is contained in the daily “public service notices” from the BWA telling Barbadians where they are fixing ruptured water mains.
Quite frankly, Barbadians have had enough of the excuses. In 2013 we don’t want to hear about how many millions Errol Barrow took out of the authority’s purse and diverted to other pursuits; or that the Bees were in power for 14 years and did nothing. Both might be true, but the constant repetition does not get taps running or water jugs filled.
Neither do we buy the excuse that Sir Roy Trotman and the Barbados Workers Union are at fault by refusing to budge on changes the BWA wants to make. When last we checked Sir Roy was in charge of the BWU, not the BWA; and the DLP was the Government not the BWU.
It is time for those responsible to get on with the job. We have heard for too long about how much the mains replacement programme will cost; how we need to change all the meters in the country to see how much water we are really losing between pumping and the consumer (remember, the meters were installed for this purpose in the first place), and all the other rhetoric.
Anytime you bounce up a [politician]
and you hear them running their mouth
It have a whole set a people,
don’t know what they talking ’bout
A [politician] is someone living happy
And all dem family doing well
So [political] talk is really not for people
In de ghetto catching hell. (Apologies to Stalin)