Today, if we come across as a little facetious, flippant even, it is because we set out to be. It may be the most appropriate way under the circumstances to make the point — and we hope those for whom it is intended get the message.
We would like Government to consider making Director Dr. Lorna Inniss and her team from the Coastal Zone Management Unit responsible for all environmental matters in this country, and our reference to the environment is to be interpreted in its broadest possible sense.
As far as we are concerned, the CZMU has for years been doing an exceptional job in terms of the protection of our marine environment, and even where there have been cases where our marine resources have been negatively impacted it could hardly be attributed to negligence on their part.
A perfect example would be the continued deterioration of reefs and near shore marine life along the west coast, where a sewerage project has been in the works for more than a quarter century and to date not even a test hole has been dug.
As they did with the construction of Port St. Charles so many years ago, as they have been doing on an on-going basis with Port Ferdinand Marina and as they are now doing with their own project at Holetown, CZMU has been seeing to it that as far as is possible, not one coral reef, or other form of marine life, is hurt by coastal works.
In their television infomercials the CZMU has been explaining what they have been doing to keep silt and other contaminants off the reefs and how they have been measuring the results.
Now compare that with construction projects all over the country. Let’s begin with road works. Householders, pedestrians and motorists have been choking for months, and in some cases for years, with dust from highway construction.
We are not unreasonable. We don’t expect to build or repair a road without dust, but for heaven’s sake, there must be standards governing these projects. It can’t be that 12 months will pass without residents being able to open a window or door for more than a few seconds.
Then there is the converse side. The rainy season sets in and the craters appear magically, almost like sink holes in Florida — just that they stop short of being able to swallow an entire car.
So we ask the following questiom. When a highway construction project incorporates an existing roadway that remains in daily use, whose jurisdiction is it: the contractor’s or that of the Ministry of Transport and Works?
Again, one expects potholes and bumps during construction, but are there no standards regarding the daily or weekly filling of holes? By itself the act of construction slows traffic, but when it is reduced to a further crawl because the road is in such a state any speed above five kilometres per hour is damaging to your vehicle, something is surely wrong.
And don’t tell us about worker safety either, because motorists have become accustomed to forced crawling at night and weekends because of the state of the road surface, and this long after workers have gone home.
The authorities require barriers that trap silt and protect the marine environment, but all over the country trucks and other pieces of heavy duty equipment are driven off construction sites onto our highways leaving a stream of mud and other debris behind them.
While it is flying from their tyres, other motorists are forced to drop back as much as 50 metres for safety while poor pedestrians are left to scramble for cover. Afterward, the slippery surface that is left becomes nothing less than a hazard to all road users.
There are also the developers with their major building projects, who are required by their insurance policies to erect hoarding to separate the construction site from everything around it. We suspect their primary motivation is to reduce their potential liability.
But who is responsible when huge dust clouds all day long, except when it rains, blind everyone who passes within 100 metres of these projects? Were the works taking place seaside, we are sure CZMU would have required substantial dust screens to protect the marine environment and all that inhabit it would be protected.
But who looks after the poor human being who, when he or she no longer gets relief from over-the-counter eyewash and sinus medication, is compelled to keep our medical practitioners going to the bank to deposit accumulating fees.
Since Barbadians can’t be designated as fish by an act of Parliament [Or can they?], it may be easier to give the CZMU national responsibility on land and at sea. We don’t ask for anything special — just the same level of protection as the fish.