Almost every day for the past few months, the newspapers and radio talk shows have been bombarding us with complaints about the “stink” on the south coast, and citizens have a right to be concerned about the sewage problem. However, we also have a responsibility to ensure that we do not contribute to the mess.
Alas, the general manager of the Barbados Water Authority has now confirmed what I thought all along; the sewerage system has been overwhelmed with extraneous material which has been irresponsibly placed there.
Clearly, successive governments must take blame for not properly anticipating and catering for developments in that part of Barbados, and not carrying out timely maintenance on the system. But, businesses and other Barbadians must accept their fair share of blame for blocking the plant with grease, rags, towels, plastic and even human foetuses.
We have also learnt that some companies are diverting storm water into the system, thereby aggravating the situation. I also desperately hope that we are not seeing signs of sabotage, designed to make the Government look bad.
If one were to go by the comments made by some on Facebook, radio and in the print media, one could be forgiven for feeling that there are persons among us who take delight in this problem. This is our country and no matter which party is in office, we have to live here. There is a Barbadian saying that “you should not spit in the soup that you have to drink.” I will say no more on that score.
For a long time, the authorities have been warning us not to pollute our gullies, roadways and water courses, but too many of us have disregarded the advice. The media often features community groups and other civic minded persons collecting garbage from beaches, gullies and the nooks and crannies of Barbados. Yet, some of us have become so indifferent to the environment that we seem unable to avoid throwing food boxes from our cars or dumping rubbish in areas considered convenient. Unless we change our dirty habits, the south coast crisis will be only the first of a number of environmental disasters we will face.
While I empathize with residents, businessmen and visitors in Worthing and surrounding districts, I wish to suggest that those guilty of contributing to the sewage overflow pay attention to the sound advice given by the BWA and dispose of their waste in a responsible manner. This is not a situation that should be made a political football. The health and prosperity of the country are at stake and we need to find solutions and fast.
In that context, I want to applaud the Authority for the effort it has so far made to tackle the problem. I was pleasantly surprised to go to a dinner on Saturday night at one of the hotels in what I had heard was the affected area, and find that there was no waste water or sewage on the road.
Now to the United States advisory regarding our drinking water. It is amazing how easily some Barbadians have taken the word of the Americans against our own professionals. Are there tanks on the premises of the residences “tested”? If so, did the bacteria found come from the tanks? Further, I do recall the US making a threat to make countries like Barbados pay a price for “opposing” that powerful country on the issue of Jerusalem being declared the capital of Israel. Could the advisory be the beginning of a backlash? Quite frankly, I BELIEVE the Barbadian experts, regardless of which party forms the Government. Ministers of Government live in this country and I can hardly see what they would have to gain by covering up a health hazard. Citizens and visitors falling sick because of drinking local water cannot be an occurrence which would benefit Government. As Barbadians we need to take off our political blinkers and put our country first.
I look forward to our engineers and environmentalists putting their heads together to find a lasting solution to the sewage problem. In the meantime, we need to view what others say about us more critically and not be so anxious to believe the worst about our people and country. In this regard, the media has a crucial role to play.