By Marlon Madden
Prime Minister Mia Mottley has announced a massive two-week cleaning up exercise across the country while announcing that no effort will be spared in getting the airport to reopen within a matter of days.
She revealed that officials monitoring the La Soufrière volcano in St Vincent and the Grenadines have announced that the last eruption Thursday morning was not sufficient strength to result in further ash fall here. Mottley said the regularity of the eruptions had also decreased and the strength of the eruptions had weakened.
She said it was against that background that the decision was taken to embark on a major cleaning up exercise at the airport and across the island.
“Over the course of the next two weeks Barbados is one massive clean-up site and I am asking every Bajan please, to play your part . . . I need every householder and every business to play your part,” said Mottley.
Since the first eruption at the La Soufrière volcano in St Vincent last Friday, Barbados has been experiencing a blanketing of ashfall.
Speaking to journalists at the airport on Thursday afternoon ahead of a CARICOM Heads of Government meeting, Mottley announced that the national clean-up would result in some 1,500 temporary jobs, while the cleaning up at the airport will include all the major civil construction companies.
Mottley was not in a position to say exactly how long the airport clean-up would last or how much it would cost but said the idea was to get the airport opened as soon as possible.
“The airport is being divided up into quadrants as well as to be able to deal with inside and the canopies.
“We recognise that in dealing with the airport we cannot just deal with it we have to create a zone around it,” said Mottley, who promised that the impact on individuals in the vicinity, and especially those downwind, would be minimised.
She further announced that the Barbados Water Authority had given the go-ahead for treated non-potable water from the Bridgetown sewage plant to be used to clean the airport.
There will also be limited use of desalinated seawater from the Oistins area for cleaning just outside the airport.
This, she said, “will ensure that there are multiple approaches to keeping the dust down”.
Pointing out that the island has been cut off from air transport for the last six days, Mottley said this could no longer continue and that the airport “has to open back up as a matter of urgency”.
Acknowledging that there was still the possibility of more eruptions and ash, Mottley said this should not stop the island from using the current breathing space to do a major clean-up.
She explained that the Ministry of Housing will have responsibility for overseeing the cleaning of all government buildings, with the exception of schools and health institutions.
“In addition to those government buildings, we have the housing estates where tens of thousands of people live and the government still has responsibility for making sure they are made clean as quickly as possible.
“Minister [William] Duguid has been given the authority to be able to bring on few extra people in order to help in that exercise,” she said.
As part of the clean-up campaign, Mottley said the entire road network will be cleaned and she was calling on every resident to do what they could to help.
“I say to those householders and residents who can clean around your house help us to help you. But without prejudice to that, in every nook and cranny across every parish in this country we’ll engage just about 1,500 persons to help us over the next 10 to 14 days, clean the country,” she said, as she reminded that the hurricane season was just under six weeks away.
She also disclosed that several ministries and agencies would embark on work to see how the ash was affecting some sectors and areas of the ecosystem.
Mottley said the Ministry of Agriculture would embark on a public education programme for farmers to help them to treat to the current situation, while the Ministry of Health and public health officials would “try to track where this damage is going to potentially affect us from a public health and individual health perspective”.
She also noted that the Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs Wilfred Abrahams has engaged the services of the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology to start the measurement of the ash across Barbados.
“I have asked equally that the Coastal Zone Management Unit working with the other environmental entities help us to determine what is going to be the impact on our coral reef,” said Mottley, who suggested that there would be some impact on Government’s Roofs to Reefs initiative.