Law must be upheld
The capacity of Barbadians to remain law abiding even in the face of immense pressure has on occasion led our neighbours in the region to refer to us as passive or conservative. It’s a label we have long worn with pride – even smug superiority.
But like so many other aspects of the “culture” that have helped to define us, that too is changing. In the past we have heard of people stealing water, but the recent discoveries that have been made public should cause us all to pause and consider where our society is going.
Just this week we had officers of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) complaining that when their crews were sent to investigate the low water pressure experienced by one customer they found water running downhill. Further probing revealed that the customer’s pipe had been cut to allow for the illegal irrigation of marijuana plants.
In another instance, a legitimate customer had rigged a contraption to bypass the water meter, thus allowing him a continued supply without incurring a charge from the BWA. In this case, the excuse of the customer was that both he and his wife had lost their jobs and could not pay the bill.
The BWA also complained of another illegal rural connection where a farmer was obtaining “free” water to grow his crops.
There can be no doubt that in the current economic climate an increasing number of Barbadians are finding it hard, if not impossible, to maintain their standard of living, while for others just living has become a major challenge. As a society, however, we should not encourage law breaking on the grounds that people are suffering.
The problem with turning a blind eye to such acts, even if we sympathise with the perpetrators, is that we do not know where it will all end. We cannot excuse illegal water connections on the one hand and then condemn the young men who sell peeled stolen cane at the side of the road just because we can’t identify the specific owner. Wrong is wrong.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the stealing of water and not expect that pretty soon someone will not try a similar route with electricity. If there is anyone with doubt they only need look to Jamaica to see what has developed.
But the stealing of public services is not just a matter for the utility company, in this case the BWA, because as the authority has pointed out, there is a serious public health risk involved. The meter is not just a measuring device, it also acts to ensure that the water travels in one direction only – from the supplier to the consumer.
However, when someone rigs up a connection to bypass the meter, they also set up the perfect formula for bacteria to travel from the household into the main supply being used by countless others. We cannot allow a few to threaten the health of the majority. We must all support the tough stance of the BWA.