Government’s slipshod approach to the issue of drainage in communities across St James and wider Barbados is in need of an urgent fix, Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds told Parliament this morning.
Heaping scorn on Government’s resolution to abandon its compulsory acquisition of lands at Weston, St James under the Land Acqusition Act, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) member issued a stern rebuke to Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley who tabled the measure at the start of today’s sitting.
Dismissing Lashley’s presentation as a mere “tutorial in land acquisition”, Symmonds said it was disgraceful that while Government vaguely revealed that it would give up the lands because of flooding concerns, nothing had been done to correct the persistent problem which affects Weston and other flood prone communities in St James.
“When [calypsonian] Carew went on his housetop in Weston and washed out to sea and drowned, all in Barbados learnt that the area was a flood plain and as a matter of urgency you needed to put drainage mitigation in place . . . [However], no steps have been taken to deal with the issue,” the BLP representative complained.
“It is all well and good to say that a policy of land acquisition at Weston is being withdrawn for the purposes that there was flooding . . . but after you have abandoned the acquisition because of drainage then what?” he asked.
Symmonds said Government’s lack of action was even more glaring with two of the island’s first responders – the Fire Station in Weston and the nearby Holetown Police Station – still forced to operate in flood prone areas.
“It doesn’t end there – if you go across the country and come into St Michael, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is also on a flood plain, so these are some of the serious development issues that we have to deal with in Barbados,” he said.
Symmonds told the House that as a recently as last night in his St James Central constituency, flooding prevented residents in Bagatelle from getting into their homes after a culvert in the area collapsed and broke.
“People who live in the district . . . had to park their cars alongside the road and walk in last night, when this was drawn to the attention of the Minister [of Environment and Drainage] by way of a residents’ petition in 2016 March.
“So that a year and half has passed, no repairs have been done and the inevitable has come to pass that the drains collapsed and break in.”
The St James Central spokesman lamented that the entire parish encountered difficulties associated with drainage and, as a consequence, flooding.
And while conceding that the drainage unit was under pressure, Symmonds insisted that the authorities could not afford to have a piecemeal approach to St James, which was referred to as the island’s “gold coast”.
Symmonds called on Parliament to ensure that every effort was made to ensure that Barbados was disaster-ready, while citing the recent devastation of neighbouring Caribbean islands by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Acknowledging that the island was not in a position to address its drainage issues on its own, he suggested that authorities should seek outside funding.
“The country as part of its development mission must look to secure adequate financing from relevant institutions so as to overcome these drainage challenges.”
The Opposition spokesman also made a case for Government to develop a building code and urged authorities to bring insurance companies to the table to ensure that working class Barbadians could afford insurance.
Symmonds however raised concern that too many Barbadians were still in the dark about the much talked about national disaster management plan.
“You know Sir, that nobody has consulted with anybody in any part of my constituency about what their role is in that plan . . . . You have to share what it is that [Barbadians] are called upon to do in the event that there is a major disaster in Barbados,” he said.