“Victories are not born on the field – they are created in practice,” (i.e. in preparation) ~ Sylvia Pencak
“If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” ~ Thomas Edison
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” ~ Francis of Assisi
More than 50 years ago I had the distinct pleasure of conducting a tour around my lovely island home for a visiting Jamaican civil engineer. There had been lots of rain and it was still raining and this visiting engineer marvelled that there was so little flooding. “When we have rain like this in Jamaica there is flooding all over the place with collateral damage to infrastructure (roads, bridges and culverts) and housing” were his words! He noted that Barbados’ great drainage system consisted mainly of vertical drains or “sucks” which not only drained away the water but recharged our aquifers and that these drains were regularly cleaned to maintain their function.
Fast forward 50 years and Barbados is spending millions of dollars to reduce flooding by improving its drainage outfalls to the sea. Just visit Holetown and you will see. At the same time, we are suffering more periods of drought interspersed with more intense rainfall as a result of climate change. Yet according to the BWA our aquifers are dwindling, being over pumped and need recharging. What happened? Where are all the vertical drains we had and that the Planning Department insists are constructed in every new “development”?
The answer my friend is written in the poor performance of the “authorities” responsible for maintaining the vertical drains. These drains collect silt which reduces their drainage function. They must be cleaned and desilted on a regular basis. However, like all the other poor maintenance of public property, no one is cleaning the vertical drains. Further complicating the situation is that no Government Department seems to accept the responsibility for doing so.
In addition, several drainage studies for Barbados have recommended that small, inexpensive, check dams with vertical drains be constructed in our gullies to reduce runoff and flooding and recharge the aquifers. None of which has been done. Such measures could reduce the current flood water in Holetown by >50 per cent. So why are we building outfalls to the sea instead?
It is my understanding that the “authorities” are concerned that the garbage being dumped in our gullies could result in pollution of the aquifers. Would the most cost effective solution not be to get rid of the garbage rather than expensively improving outfalls to pollute the sea instead? Our marine resources are no less important than our aquifers! Has there been any sort of cost/benefit analysis or planning approval for this development work, including an Environmental Impact Assessment study which all private developers are required to do? Why is the public sector “maguffies” not required to meet the same planning standards as the private sector? What is good for the goose should be good enough for the gander! Where are all the objectors to physical development without an EIA? Could these be just “wind vanes”? Round and round we go…
Peter Webster is a retired Portfolio Manager of the Caribbean Development Bank and a former Senior Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture.