Opposition Leader Mia Mottley says Government needs to declare a national emergency in the face of the current water “crisis” affecting residents in several parishes.
Mottley made the suggestion this afternoon, while telling the Freundel Stuart administration that if it was not prepared to lead on the issue of water outages, it should step aside and let others do the job.
Describing the ongoing water shortages as “dire”, Mottley also cautioned Government that its medium term solutions “will take a year, two to three years in some instances, to bring relief to the suffering residents”.
“You cannot wait for that length of time because people need water on a daily basis. This is an essential service, this is not a luxury, this is a necessity. I am saying to you therefore that we really need to be able to ensure that all resources in Barbados treat this as a major priority,” she said.
During an interview on local radio, the Opposition Leader recalled that when the country faced the threat of Tropical Storm Matthew last week all Government agencies, the private sector and the ordinary citizen came together as one.
She also recalled that when Her Majesty’s Prison at Station Hill, St Michael was destroyed by fire back in 2005 all Barbadians came together to face the threat to national security.
Contending that the country now faces a water crisis, Mottley said: “It cannot be business as usual where we are diverting our attention, or our expenditure, or our resources to other things.”
She suggested that “the first thing is you have to declare this as a national emergency. Once you do so, you have all the agencies of Government, you have the private sector, you have the media, everyone working to the same end.” However, when asked if residents would be within their rights to take the matter to the law courts, Mottley, who is an attorney-at-law, warned that “going to court is not the answer”.
She also pointed out that the law courts were already grappling with a large backlog of cases, saying, “by the time these people go to court they have to pay their water bills if not the Barbados Water Authority cuts off the water even when it is coming back on. So how are you going to deal with tens of thousands of people not paying their bills and not having access to water even if the water is restored to regular service?
“Going to court is not the answer,” she insisted.
Mottley recalled a precedent where residents in the parish of St Lucy who had suffered major water outages were given a rebate by the BWA. She also pointed out that as far back as December 31 last year she and other members of the Barbados Labour Party had sought to bring the plight of the water-starved parishes to the Government’s attention without any success.