“EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Drought crisis plan needed”

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At this time of the year all focus is on disaster preparedness, which for Barbadians means how best to deal with any Atlantic storm which may hit the island.

But the script for disaster mitigation in Barbados needs to be expanded.

There should be a plan to deal with any major fire in densely populated areas; a plan to combat flooding, and, conversely, one to deal with drought.

Every so often officials from the Barbados Water Authority and the Meteorological Service issue reminders that Barbados is a water-scarce place.

Yet Barbados does not have a national plan in place to deal with drought.

At least, if there is one it has not been publicised.

Farmers, hoteliers, schools, business houses and residential households must be able to respond in case of a drought.

There is no effective harvesting of rainwater in Barbados. Although many newer households may have tanks for run-off from their roofs, many owners boldly state that they are never used as intentioned.

It is unlikely that most of the hotels and restaurants have an effective backup water supply to adequately serve their guests and patrons over a few days if the national supply were unavailable.

Based on what has occurred in recent times, many of the schools are ill-equipped to deal with a water outage.

Just imagine the hardships which would befall our farming community, particularly small-scale farmers, if there is a prolonged period without rain. Both livestock and food crop farmers would be impacted and consumers in turn would be hit in their pockets.

At the same time, whenever there is a lot of rain, a large volume of that water goes to waste, with much of it ending up in the sea.

Minister of Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams should see this issue as a priority. It cuts across a number of other portfolios, the private sector, the trade unions and the non-governmental and community-based organisations.

A drought can have severe economic and social impact at the national level. The Department of Emergency Management needs to embrace this side of disaster mitigation.

Barbados should ask the Israelis for technical help to find a practical and urgent solution. We must not wait until an extended drought precipitates a crisis. (ES)