Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy today said he was eager to see an end to the troubling sewage mess along a section of the tourism belt on the island’s south coast.
The constant flow of raw sewage onto the streets and the compounds of homes and businesses, mainly in Hastings and Worthing, Christ Church, has left locals and visitors alike worried, and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) at a loss as to how to fix the problem.
The BWA has declared that it is a national crisis, and as tourists begin to join Barbadians in raising a stink about the ongoing mess, there are increasing concerns that it could hurt the island’s bread and butter industry.
Speaking to reporters today at the Bridgetown Port after welcoming the 821, 864th cruise passenger to visit the island for the year – a new record for cruise arrivals – Sealy said he met yesterday with BWA and other officials and was assured that the problem was being urgently addressed.
However, he admitted that he was anxious to see an end to the vexing issue.
“Only yesterday I happened to be part of an exercise that allowed me to be briefed on where we are going with that, so we are anxious to see it brought to an end. And of course, once the relief comes we then have to decide on the long-term solutions in terms of going forward because we certainly don’t want a recurrence of it,” said Sealy, who a year ago had joined Minister of Health John Boyce – in full view of the media – for a swim in the waters off Worthing Beach in a bid to assure both locals and visitors that it was not contaminated with faeces.
Since that obvious public relations stunt, which appeared to have backfired, the minister has been less visible as it relates to the sewage issue, although he told Barbados TODAY in a brief comment on his way to Parliament earlier this month that the matter was being actively addressed.
“The [Barbados] Water Authority has assured me they are actively putting measures in place, getting the right advice to have it dealt with. Obviously it is a problem, a serious problem and it is being actively addressed. That is what I understand,” Sealy said at the time.
He repeated this very reassurance today, one day after south coast resident and community activist Adrian Donovan openly called for the temporary closure of fast food outlets, restaurants and guest accommodations directly affected by the worsening crisis.
“The teams at the Barbados Water Authority are actively dealing with that issue and I have been assured that the course they are on will bring relief to that entire situation in short order. Obviously, it is a situation that needs to be attended to and is being attended to urgently,” Sealy stressed.
Government’s primary private sector tourism partner, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), earlier this month called on the authorities to act swiftly to end the crisis.
Chief Executive Officer Rudy Grant in a statement three weeks ago described the situation as both “unacceptable” and “untenable”, while warning that the current image of the south coast was not the one that Barbados would wish to present at this time.
He therefore called on the authorities to immediately remedy the problem, while warning that it had “the potential to negatively impact ‘Brand Barbados’ and cost millions of dollars in visitor receipts if it becomes a subject of concern in our source markets.
“This matter concerns us not only from the perspective of the impact on the tourism industry, but also as it relates to the welfare and well-being of Barbadians and visitors,” Grant had said.
A week later, BHTA Chairman Roseanne Myers called for immediate action to flush out the problem once and for all, saying she was running out of patience.