A country that cares about its people would dedicate considerable energy to solving the difficult problems its people encounter.
Now that we are within the dry season, it is important that we take the opportunity to discuss the issue of flooding within the City of Bridgetown. The grim reality is that every rainy season, with the slightest downpour of rain, there is considerable flooding in many of the areas within our City, in what should be a recognized tourism hotspot and attraction, as well as the home to many Barbadians.
Individuals must call these City residents to mind within the context of the inevitable ensuing debate, another dubious fixture of every rainy season, as to whether or not Barbadians simply do not wish to go to work when it rains. Picture a woman with two young children living in the City going out to take the bus only to find that floodwaters are at her doors.
There are those who believe that there will always be flooding in the City. This may very well be the case given that water will flow to the lowest point. The City is such a point, having been reclaimed in years past from the swamp and sea, it is actually at sea level or below. This circumstance is made worse by having a relatively high water table as a result.
Juxtaposed against this phenomenon of perennial flooding within The City is a farming community that complains about the inability to obtain cost-effective irrigation water. It is proposed that with some thought and the willingness to implement, the willingness to try and fail and try again until success is met, these two problems should no longer stand in isolation from each other.
The solution? We as a country must commit to mitigating the difficult problem of flooding within The City.
The solution to water management and flood mitigation is a topic of considerable study for countries that have had problems with flooding. The example, which often comes to mind, is that of the Netherlands, Les Pays Bas, commonly referred to as Holland.
The Netherlands, after the great flood of 1953, which killed approximately 1,500 people, set to work to ensure that their people would never suffer such a fate again. Now, there are some parts of the Netherlands where people live happily below sea level. It has also been estimated that without the interventions of the State, 60 per cent of the landmass of the Netherlands would be under water. Clearly, they have achieved an effective solution to their water management problem. All that was required was the motivation to seek such a solution.
Most of the water that floods The City starts out in the higher elevations of Barbados. The truth is that Barbados has been built up and out with very little thought to the final destination of runoff, as long as it is not on the property that personally concerns us. We in Barbados have far more rooftops than ever before. We have decreased the amount of soil around our homes and have chosen to use impermeable concrete for paving. Our main road network has become increasingly dense with inadequate consideration to drainage.
There are several practical solutions to mitigate the loss of natural drainage. For example, Barbadians, including farmers, should cultivate the practice of capturing rain water and storing it for future use, whether using containers or through the utilization of methods of agriculture that facilitate this. In addition, it certainly would make sense if we found paving solutions that would allow rainwater to sink into the land wherever possible and this should be so across Barbados.
Within The City, more green spaces would not only beautify the capital, but would absorb more rainwater. This would be consistent with the sustainable policy of growing more food in The City and starting an urban agricultural movement.
The whole idea is to live well with the water with which we have been blessed. One innovative idea within some cities is to direct floodwaters to one area such as a car park or an underpass, and then allow residents to use the area for watersports until it disperses naturally.
The many effective water management features that have been implemented in the Netherlands were not implemented in 1954. It took the span of decades. Now, however, the country has not only solved its water management problems but it can also leverage its own expertise and generate considerable revenue by selling consulting services abroad and developing designs which can be sold. Their hard-won knowledge is used to create educational institutions and curricula for the research and teaching of the subject. There is no doubt that confronting difficult problems provides considerable benefits to a nation, which far outweigh the initial cost.
While we may not have the resources for the more high cost, water management and flooding solutions, Barbados must develop a different attitude to our circumstances. It is important that all of our citizens have a basic high standard of living, which must include the mitigation of flooding. We must dedicate a unit of Government exclusively to water management and flood mitigation. We must be determined to solve this problem, no matter how long it takes.
The City of Bridgetown is worth it.
(Lynette Eastmond is the candidate for The City of Bridgetown and leader of the United Progressive Party.