As Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe does not have responsibility for any high-profile portfolio.
He does not speak to, or in the presence of, the media very often; and when he does, on the scale of newsworthiness it seldom slides to the “sexy” side.
Yesterday the environment minister went on a tour, again a rare occasion, and as expected he did not say a lot. On this occasion, however, we believe we had no choice but to stop and take note, and we would implore all Barbadians to do the same.
We are now midway into the first month of the 2013 hurricane season, a time when our preparations for an unwelcome visitor from the west coast of Africa ought to be well in train. We have already seen one named storm for the season spawn in the Gulf of Mexico, and this should be a warning not to take comfort in the “June too soon” saying.
While touring a number of districts in which the Drainage Division of his ministry had been engaged in flood prevention or mitigation, Minister Lowe said:
“In the past we’ve noted on several occasions where there have been some minimal interruption of water flow to wells in districts, communities and so on and that citizens can assist us by going out there and doing that minimal work that needs to be done, which is sometimes removing a bag from the grill which is restricting the water flow into the well or a plastic bottle or something of the sort.
“What I want to say to Barbadians is that really flood management is our business, not just the Drainage Division’s business, and that wherever citizens can assist in helping us to carry out our work effectively in a sustainable fashion, we are appealing to citizens to get on board and allow us to be partners with them in safeguarding their communities against flooding.”
One could not ask for the problem we face to be explained any more plainly. The minister has said that when residents see potentially minor impediments to free water flow they can take on the job of correcting the problem. We would add that if residents would pay more attention to how they dispose of their garbage there would be fewer occasions when such blockages would occur.
There are too many things we do as Barbadians that create all kinds of challenges for ourselves and others later, but about which we want to lay the blame on Government. Who do we think drop the plastic bags, cups and bottles as well as fast-food boxes and plates that so often clog our drains and wells?
We build entire houses by mixing concrete and mortar in the road, a true Bajan pastime, and each evening we wash down the surface until it is clear — after all, the responsible thing to do is to leave the road as we found it. But do our masons and labourers ever wonder what happens at the bottom of a well after four to six months of washing cement down the drain? Does the home owner fault the land developer for not digging wells deep enough when each year the district floods?
Yes, we all have a responsibility to ourselves and our communities to clear impediments to the free flow of water after heavy rains, but we have an even greater responsibility to avoid the practices that create the impediments in the first place.
Unfortunately, it is not just the householder who is at fault, for after so many years of looking after our roadways the Ministry of Transport and Works still has not come up with a system for the efficient and timely removal of weeds and other debris collected during “cleaning”. In most instances a significant amount of it returns to the place from whence it came.
And on top of that it appears that the sight of mounds of “stuff” lining our roads after MTW personnel have done their “weeding” acts as a powerful magnate for Barbadians who are too tired to hold on to anything that could be covered under the heading of garbage.
Here’s a final note. We invite the Ministry of the Environment to invest in the making of a video while the mechanical weeders are operating along the ABC Highway. If what is captured is not enough to shame Barbadians into a greater sense of cleanliness and safety, then we don’t believe anything ever will.
The amount of garbage that gets trapped as the grass grows along the highway is just mind boggling, and since the stretches where it abounds have few home, we can only conclude that the bulk of it is deliberately thrown from vehicle. Yes, occasionally a cardboard box or some similar object will fall from the back of a truck, those hundreds of cups, cans, bottles, plates, etc can be blowing in the wind by accident.
They are the source of blocked drains and flooded districts.
There is really nothing stopping us, in this instance, from helping ourselves!