‘Concrete bungle’ near
BARBADOS is headed to become a “concrete jungle” if the trend of cutting up arable land to erect buildings continues.
This claim was made by historian Dr Karl Watson as he lamented the proposed development from St David’s in Christ Church to Six Roads, St Philip, and encompassing parts of Boarded Hall, St George, as well as what has been proposed for Kingsland Estates.
He said the trend around the island to “cut up very fertile land for housing”, and turn it into “wall to wall housing”, was a “mistaken policy”.
“I know there are people on the island who possess land and think the best return they can get for [it] is not to plant it or practise agriculture, but to put in roads, sub-divide it and sell it as individual lots,” he said.
“[But] If we continue to sub-divide our best and most fertile lands and put houses on them the day will come . . . where every single thing would have to be imported because it will all be concreted from North Point to South Point and no land left for agriculture,” Watson said.
“We’ve moved from the image of Barbados as nothing but a vast field of sugar cane, to nothing but a vast island of wall-to-wall housing,” he added.
“This [the shift from agriculture] is something that has happened over time, with the advent of tourism and with the spread of housing,” Watson said.
He added there was the possibility that rural Barbados was disappearing, since everywhere could now be considered a suburb of Bridgetown.
The historian was speaking at the Barbados National Trust’s last open house at its headquarters Wildey House last Wednesday.
The National Trust president also dismissed as a myth, the idea that in its early history of agriculture the island grew nothing but sugar cane.
The island, he said, was more self-sufficient, even up to the 1940s, than it is today.
So much so, that in the 1800s, the population was able to feed itself and was even able to re-provision visiting British warships.
Referring to June 1809 figures compiled from Staple Grove Plantation, Watson said the 340 acres on the plantation were divided among sugar cane, young sugar cane, yams, sweet potatoes, okras, pumpkins, a fruit orchard and bonavis (peas).
He explained that every plantation had acreage set aside for the planting of crops other than sugar cane.
In addition, he said plantation owners gave their enslaved labour plots of less-than-fertile land so those slaves could grow their own ground provisions.
As a result, he said there were thriving markets in the capital city and when the legislature realised that all attempts to make street vending illegal were failing, members acquiesced and legalised it to defined and policed spots in The City.
“During World War II something like 8 000 acres of land in this island were planted in yams alone. Today, in the 21st century, if 300 acres are planted it’s a lot,” he said, surmising that there had also been about an 80 per cent decrease in the land under sugar cane cultivation.