Rapid housing development over the last three decades has come at a high price for Barbados.
According to Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe, it is one of the main factors contributing to the island’s drainage problem.
After being challenged by Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds during the pre-lunch session of Parliament to come up with solutions to stem widespread flooding, particularly on the south coast of the island, Lowe painstakingly explained issues plaguing the island.
Citing Weston, St James, which was the subject of the first resolution tabled today, the minister pointed out that uphill developments, such as Turtle Back Ridge, had an impact on low-lying communities.
“When you look at what those constructions have done, Mr Speaker Sir, you would realize that a lot of the water courses have been disrupted. As a matter of fact there are now people who are constructing on water courses that are affecting how the water gets from the high elevation to the run off point which is usually in the ocean,” he said.
Lowe further lamented that too many Barbadians were either engaging in construction without the permission of the Town & Country Planning Department or ignoring the requirements.
“And when you deal with water coming down from as far as St Thomas and the rate at which it comes down, because there are not adequate check dam systems that would slow down the pace of the runoff water as it gets down to the lower elevations, I know for a fact that that is part and parcel of problem with the Weston situation,” he said.
“ We have been trying, but Weston is not a challenge created in the last ten years, it has to do with how the drainage structures have been developed and the fact that with more water being asked to be led off the area, the systems are not adequate to deal with that,” he added.
Lowe further explained that the Draining Division was now faced with correcting some of the engineering flaws of yesteryear along with the new developments.
He underscored that development and planning were critical as the island addressed issues of drainage and called for greater collaboration among Government agencies to tackle the problems.
In light of the devastation caused by recent hurricanes in neighbouring Caribbean islands, Lowe also warned that Barbados had to become more “aggressive” in dealing with escalating weather events, adding that failure to tackle the issue could lead to bigger challenges in the near future.
“I am saying there has to be a healthy mix, a healthy co-ordination between adaptation measures and mitigating measures, Mr Speaker, in order to comfortably move forward at a pace where we can have a greater control over what happens when the rain falls.
“ When we look at mitigation we have to draw upon forecasting, we have to draw upon engineering, we have to draw upon research and development.
“We have to have relevant agencies working together to come up with sustainable solutions that will allow us to persistently and consistently address issues of drainage in Barbados,” he stressed.