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EDITORIAL: Tackling flooding problem

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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The picture presented to us in the media of the recent flooding in low-lying and vulnerable parts of the island is extremely disturbing. Whole districts were under water, and in some cases, homes were flooded out by three feet or more of water which damaged furniture and household fittings, and schools and Government offices were shut for most of Monday.
If we are aspiring to be a First World country which is open for business 24/7 then something must be drastically wrong with our disaster management, and particularly with the methods we use to prepare for heavy rains and the threat of flooding.
We can no longer tolerate business as usual which means a sharp drop in productivity and an almost wholesale cessation of business whenever a more than ordinary amount of rain falls; and every effort must be made to come up with workable solutions to this problem.
The larger metropolitan countries manage to maintain most of their business systems and civil operations in the face of greater constant threats from a more challenging pattern of weather, which includes snow and sometimes driving rain and sleet which is so much a part of the winter season.
Yet we seem to become paralysed at the slightest indication of heavy consistent rainfall, although we will have had some kind of advance warning. Following last weekend’s downpour virtually all Barbados began work at noon on Monday with major disruption of banking and other services suspended until that time, and with vital private and public establishments, including Government day care nurseries closed.
But we can hardly enhance our reputation as an island which promotes and thrives off its excellent delivery of domestic and international services if the operators of our hotels and apartments find that absent workers mean that clean rooms, linen service and other ancillary services cannot be guaranteed when we have out of the ordinary rainfall.
The good news is that it seems possible to deal with this problem. The success of the developers of the Limegrove Centre at Holetown in alleviating the flooding problem in their immediate environs is a story of excellent proactive planning which appears to have tapped the problem at it source.
The construction of dams upstream and an enhanced canal exiting in the sea to carry off such water as escaped the dam ensured that Limegrove development was virtually unscathed, even though immediately to its south, the Holetown Police Station was flooded out and the West Coast Mall were closed to business.
The solution to our flooding problems will therefore require a short-term strategy to clear obvious bottlenecks like blocked drains and things of that sort followed by a medium and long term strategy which adopts and adapts some of the private sector ideas which were used in the Limegrove development.
Jack Warner, Minister of Works in Trinidad, disclosed earlier this week that his ministry is already discussing ideas provided by private sector engineers for tackling the flooding problem in that country and was assembling engineering and other construction expertise in a combined effort to ensure that remedial action is slated to start by January when the dry season starts. He has given contractors a ‘few days” to produce official plans.
That is the kind of action needed here. Limegrove shows that the expertise is available on this island. What we need now is the political will to drive the action to tackle the problem as a matter of urgency. It is not simply a matter of assisting the residents of  flood prone areas; it is also a matter of urgent national concern