With residents and businesses in some parts of the island still crying out for water outages, a top official of the Town & Country Planning department today hinted that relief could soon be on the way, based on proposals contained in the final amendment to the draft Physical Development Plan for Barbados.
That plan, which is now before Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who is the Minister responsible for Town Planning, is also to be made the subject of a final round of public consultations before it is tabled in Parliament for approval.
However, addressing a sensitization forum for secondary students earlier today, Deputy Chief Town Planner George Browne announced that Six Roads, St Philip would shortly be reclassified as a zone one area, following the recent discovery of a large source of water in the Grove Plantation area by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA).
“It would become a zone one area where restrictions would be [imposed on developments],” Browne said, adding that based on a comprehensive study of the water situation, the BWA would shortly be embarking on a reclassification of the island’s water zones.
“The study that they [BWA] are currently finalizing, they have redefined the water zones. They are not finished, but we made provision for those zones in the [Physical Development Plan],” the deputy chief town planner said, adding that those zones would be incorporated into the plan when they were finalized.
While pointing out that Barbados currently receives about 40 per cent of its water from the Belle Pumping Station in St Michael, he stressed that plan would seek to address the water scarce situation.
As far back as 2014, Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick has been promising that a comprehensive review of the country’s water zoning policy was before Cabinet.
“That new zoning policy . . . reestablishes a modern platform for protecting our groundwater and it also establishes some variables in regards to how we may very well deal with surface water and how we may very well utilize surface water for irrigation and some other dynamics that we are working with EPD [Environmental Protection Department],” the minister had told reporters at the end of an extensive tour of the BWA’s Pine, St Michael headquarters three years ago.
“I know the broad variables of it essentially allows for the establishment of certain exclusion zones around where water is pumped in Barbados and certain types of activities are prevented from occurring in those areas, and other areas,” Dr Estwick had stated at the time, adding that “one would apply the appropriate technologies in regards to the development that would be allowed by the water authority, and EPD and Town & Country Planning in regards to all the other areas that are considered zoned”.
Since then, Estwick had also announced that in the interest of safeguarding the island’s drinking water supply, Government was moving towards greater dependence on desalination.
However, Browne reported today that his department had only recently received applications for the establishment of desalination plants at Harrison, St Lucy and Ealing Grove, Christ Church.
Browne could not go into the details on the proposed plants but said the investors in the project were currently preparing environmental impact studies while the applications were being processed by the Town & Country Planning Department.
“Because Barbados is a water scarce country, we can no longer rely on filtration. Over the years . . . the last three years, there has been a significant reduction in the annual rainfall. So we can no longer rely on rainfall, so this is why we had to go towards desalination,” said Browne, who was speaking on World Town Planning Day.
Just days ago, President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Eddy Abed took the BWA to task over what he described as poor timing of its annual maintenance schedule at its Spring Garden plant which resulted in a water shutdown, which mainly affected St Michael, St Thomas and St James communities.
Abed said the move took a toll on businesses in The City at time when many could least afford it. The Chamber president further complained that businesses were only given three days notice of the shutdown, which he said was hardly enough time for them to make any provisions for the day.
However, in light of these woes, Browne is assuring that the final draft Physical Development Plan is based on sustainable development and climate change with major consideration given to food security and food sovereignty.